#2. Tarantula Hawk
Allow me to set your mind at ease for once: A tarantula hawk is not a flying tarantula. Nature doesn't hate us that much (yet). But it's not that far down on the terror charts: The tarantula hawk is a giant wasp that hunts tarantulas for baby food. Obviously, if it's going to hunt some of the largest spiders in the world, it has to be one of the world's largest wasps, and obviously the largest wasps are going to have the largest stingers, and obviously the largest stingers are going to be the most painful on earth, and obviously the entire world has spent the last 4 billion years evolving to perfectly hate you in the most efficient way possible.
But let's go back to that stinger: It's roughly a third of an inch long, which is a bigger blade than you're allowed to bring on an airplane these days. And it's not conjecture or hyperbole that the tarantula hawk has one of the most painful stings on earth: There's a scale for that stuff, the Schmidt Pain Index, and the tarantula hawk ranks No. 2 on it, second only to the bullet ant. Schmidt, the man who volunteered to be stung by every goddamn awful thing in existence despite nobody ever asking anybody to ever do that, described the sting as "blinding, fierce and shockingly electric." Another researcher clarified that it "shuts down one's ability to do anything, except, perhaps, scream."
San Dieguito River Park
When the guy whose job it is to take the worst pain ever starts describing his feelings like the tagline to a horror movie, that shit has as astronomically high likelihood of being real.
And while it is noted that the tarantula hawk is "relatively docile" and "rarely stings without provocation," don't you dare take any of that premature comfort. Because there's also this:
The tarantula hawk is one of the few insects that get drunk recreationally. It often gets off on fermented fruit juice for kicks, sometimes to the point that "[they] fly around a bit unsteadily."
So even if they're not actively out to kill you, just remember: Somewhere out there in nature, somebody's drunk driving a tiny helicopter with a 1/3-inch blade instead of a bumper, coated in the most painful thing on the planet.
#1. Blanket Octopus
The blanket octopus is perhaps the only creature on earth aside from man that truly appreciates a sense of drama. For example, most animals use things like poisons, sprays or smells as defensive mechanisms to ward off attackers. Not the blanket octopus. The blanket octopus instead uses its giant, built-in flowing cloak to dissuade potential predators by essentially convincing them that it's the ocean's Batman.
And you know what's even crazier? It's not a bluff: The blanket octopus totally is the Dark Knight of the sea, in every sense of the title. It's ingenious, it's merciless and it is, in all likelihood, plain old balls-out crazy. And perhaps most Batmanny is the simple fact that, while the blanket octopus doesn't have any "powers" of its own, that doesn't stop it from jumping into the fight. Over the generations, the blanket octopus evolved an immunity to the poison of the man o' war, not because it was getting preyed on by that species, but so it could get in nice and close to the thing and rip off its poisoned tentacles, which it then carries around the ocean and uses to whip anything that looks at it sideways.
"Did you say somethin'? Cause my poison whip here, it thinks it heard somethin', and brother? It's got reeeaaaal good hearing."
That's right: The blanket octopus actively seeks out and dismembers one of the most dangerous creatures in the sea just to use its limbs as weapons. That's like you waking up one day to find you've evolved an immunity to slash wounds, then immediately leaping out of bed and sprinting off into the woods so you can use your newfound abilities to hunt down a grizzly bear, rip its claws off and start beating wolves with them.
You can buy Robert's other book, Everything Is Going to Kill Everybody: The Terrifyingly Real Ways the World Wants You Dead, or follow him on Twitter and Facebook.
For more from Brockway, check out 5 Lovable Animals You Didn't Know Are Secretly Terrifying and The 5 Current Genetic Experiments Most Likely to Destroy Humanity.