5 Terrifyingly Advanced Ways Animals Know How to Kill

Whether you know it or not, humanity is fighting a war right now, and we are losing. Badly. That's because this fight is with Mother Nature herself, and while you're over there on the other side of this screen, microwaving tea and knitting tiny sweaters, that bitch is out there building biological superweapons 24/7. If all the world is a stage and we are but its players, then this show is called You Did What to My Wife? these things are Liam Neeson and you're the Eastern European terrorist who dies from getting repeatedly stabbed with his own frozen fear-urine.

#5. Gladiator Spiders

Robert Whyte

Right off the bat, it's clear we're in trouble. There are a lot of words you don't want preceding "spider" -- "behemoth," "Hot Pocket," "genital" -- but "gladiator" is still somewhere toward the top. No matter how fervently you hope it to be true, no, "gladiator spider" is not just a sinister name. Yes, unfortunately, it was named for its inventive and unique hunting practices. Specifically, the fact that it is the only spider in the world that both manufactures and uses weapons to kill.

The gladiator spider (also called the ogre-faced spider, because scientists want to make very, very sure you don't ever fuck with it) first constructs a frame using the bare branches of nearby shrubbery. Between them, it weaves a tight, square mesh of silk. Then, when it's all finished, it simply packs it all up and leaves.

"Screw you guys, I'm taking my net and I'm going home."

The gladiator spider then suspends itself from a single strand of silk above the forest floor and, wielding its net between its forelegs, it waits. When some poor unsuspecting insect walks beneath it, the gladiator spider springs into action, hurling the web-net over its hapless victim like a terrifying eight-legged ape ensnaring a tiny little Charlton Heston.

You ever notice how no new development in spideronomy ends with "thus inflicting an instant, painless death?" Yeah, this is no different. The victim is dragged off, alive, to be slowly devoured. Spiders always, always, always take their prey intact, presumably because there's simply no seasoning like mortal fear. At this point, we'd practically welcome the news that spiders have started manufacturing rifles, if only for the quick and painless death that would imply.

#4. The Iberian Newt

Peter Halasz

We've covered the Wolverine-esque hairy frog and Spanish Ribbed Newt before, but much like nature and the shameless Marvel writers themselves, we aren't afraid to keep splashing around in that same well until all the bodily fluids render the water unfit for human consumption. The Iberian Newt is a little more Marrow than Wolverine: It wields its own bones against potential predators, yes, but it doesn't use anything as hackneyed as "claws." When threatened, the Iberian newt expands its own ribcage so much that the whole structure actually pierces and breaks through its own skin, which it then uses as defensive weaponry against potential predators.

Egon Heiss, Caudata

Nature operates on the same logic as a movie prison: You can't just win the fight, esse, you got to show all the other animals that you're loco, too, or they'll make you their bitch. And even though shankin' a punk with your own ribcage is pretty hardcore, the Iberian ribbed newt doesn't even stop there: It also secretes a toxic poison through its skin -- not to try and ward off potential predators before it's chest-smashing time, but so the spiked ribs that it's shoving through its own abdomen will come out coated in its own poisonous flesh.

Jesus, that's not "stabbing a dude on your first day to show 'em you mean business" crazy; that's a "stabbing yourself just to show your enemies how to do it right, for a change" level of madness.

#3. Tentacled Sea Snakes

National Geographic

They say it's better to pull a bandage off quickly, rather than slowly pull out every arm hair individually. So let's just get this over with as quick as possible: There are psychic snakes.

Those are real things that really exist, and you just have to live with it.

They're called tentacled snakes (oh, yay! They have tentacles, too. What, "psychic powers" wasn't a large enough check mark on the Big List of Things Snakes Absolutely Should Not Have?). And while it's true that what the tentacled snakes do is more akin to "master tactician" than it is to pure Dead Zone-style psychic prowess, the results are basically the same: The snake reads its victims' intentions and uses this power to eat them.

Vanderbilt University
Well, duh. It's a snake, after all; it's not going to use its freaky super powers to give you the Keno numbers.

The tentacled snake subsists mostly on fish, which is a tougher life than it sounds because most of their prey has a built-in reaction to danger called a C-start. Basically, fish can sense sound waves in the water, and if they match certain criteria, a controlled muscle spasm kicks in automatically, sending them swimming at top speed away from the potential predator. The tentacled snake has actually evolved to exploit this, however. It will wait until a fish closes within striking distance, but it won't strike. First, it motions with its midsection in a precise way that mimics the prime "danger criteria," causing the fish to C-start (remember, this is an involuntary reaction on the fish's part). When the fish does start, it flips around in the blink of an eye and flees ... right into the snake's waiting jaws.

To recap: The tentacled snake has figured out the evolutionary mechanism by which fish perceive danger, and then constructed an elaborate, biological false alarm to send them scurrying into its own mouth. But if the C-start happens faster than the eye can see, how does the snake actually catch the damn things once they're headed in the right direction? Simple: It doesn't strike at the prey directly, it strikes at where it knows the prey will go after the snake scares it into action.

So yep, all hyperbole aside, that is a snake that has mastered psychic warfare and will surely one day devour all of humanity's thoughts and memories.

Recommended For Your Pleasure

Robert Brockway

  • Rss

More by Robert Brockway:

See More
To turn on reply notifications, click here


The Cracked Podcast

Choosing to "Like" Cracked has no side effects, so what's the worst that could happen?

The Weekly Hit List

Sit back... Relax... We'll do all the work.
Get a weekly update on the best at Cracked. Subscribe now!