6 Animals Humanity Accidentally Made Way Scarier
On any given day, we might get food poisoning from the entire roast chicken we ate for lunch, catch bird flu from the bi-weekly cockfight we attend behind the Circle K, or crash our car while swerving to hit some smug-ass deer, taunting us from the roadside with his arrogant beauty. There are plenty of dangers that can befall humanity by virtue of our own asshole behaviors, but none that hold a candle to these:
Jellyfish are creepy looking, kind of dangerous, and unlike their fellow marine killer, the shark, they don't even taste that good. Which is why it's kind of a bummer that they're now poised to take over two-thirds of planet Earth.
H.P. Lovecraft wasn't all syphilis and racism.
In 2006 and 2010, huge swarms of jellyfish invaded the beaches of Spain, stinging tens of thousands of swimmers. In some places, these occupying jellyfish appeared in concentrations of up to ten per square meter. These swarms are called "jellyfish blooms," and they're popping up in oceans worldwide like cam chat-room ads on free porn sites. Hawaii and Ireland were similarly swarmed in 2007, Israel and France in 2008, and Tunisia and Italy in 2009.
Don't start screaming now. You'll be hoarse by the end of the article.
Man-Sized Jellyfish: Nature's way of saying, "fuck right off, divers."
Oh, and did we mention that one of the species exploding in population is the box jellyfish, a variety previously found in the waters off northern Australia? And that many of these things possess 6-8 foot long tentacles covered in venom that can kill a human in three minutes?.
What the hell did we do?
Three things: First, we're dumping massive amounts of agricultural waste into the ocean. The fertilizers present in that waste are designed to increase plant growth, but they'll do their job on algae just fine instead. That algae, in turn, feeds microzooplankton, which, along with a glass of orange juice and an inspirational speech from Tony the Tiger, are a big part of any jellyfish's balanced breakfast.
One day they'll learn to fly, and mankind will reap a just harvest of pain.
Second, the ocean in general has gotten warmer. Whether you want to chalk that up to global warming or angry wizards, the temperature has risen recently, and for unknown reasons that makes jellyfish both reproduce more and swim closer to the beaches. This particularly applies to tropical jellyfish -- you know, like that three-minute-death tentacle kind from earlier? That's what's waiting for you out in those clear blue waters, just humping and murdering up a storm, waiting for your children to swim on out and join the poison-orgy.
It's...less fun than it sounds.
Finally, we ate too much Omega-3. Overfishing has triggered the jellyfish uprising by killing off huge amounts of the tuna, sharks and turtles that usually prey on jellyfish and their eggs. So, on the plus side: Those are some awesomely low triglycerides you've got up in your blood! On the downside: Gelatinous poison monsters from the deep. Hey, you knew staying healthy was going to require some sacrifices. It's just that in this case, those sacrifices happen to be of the human variety.
In the hundred years leading up to 1990, there were 53 recorded cougar attacks on humans in North America, only ten of which were fatal. From 1991 to 2004, there were 49 attacks and ten more deaths. That's almost a sevenfold increase in human death. Other mountain lion-related problems, like pet-killing, have also increased, even in heavily-populated city areas which one would hopefully assume are relatively free of giant man-eating cats.
We like nature and all, but trees are probably a better way to combat urban blight than hordes of ravening, killer kitties.
What the hell did we do?
The cougar's status in the species hierarchy has changed significantly over the years. Where once you could get a bounty for killing one, hunting is now strictly controlled, or in the case of California, outlawed altogether. California, coincidentally enough, is also the place that's experienced that sixteen-fold increase in attacks over the last 25 years. We don't want to pass judgment on complicated environmental issues or anything, California, but it's probably safe to assume the increased cougar maulings are not because they disapprove of your state's irresponsible handling of its recent budget issues.
According to some researchers, mankind's cessation of anti-cougar activities has caused the cats to lose their fear of humanity. And really, we shouldn't need researchers to tell us that, if we don't show large predators we pose at least some kind of threat, they're going to learn to think of us as soft, pink, vertical burritos ripe for the snacking.
Try not to look so damn appetizing.
Also not helping: The cougars that do get hunted these days are most likely to be adult males, since their size makes them the most impressive trophies. This leaves their vacated territory open to the equivalent of cougar teenagers, who are most into experimenting with human prey (and maybe the hard drugs too, depending on how sheltered their upbringing was).
Unfortunately, the solution to this problem is far from simple, since "Shoot more cats, and when you do, by god, aim for the kittens!" is not exactly a catchy rallying cry.
In the last 50 years or so, a new type of bee has come onto the scene: The Africanized or "killer" bee has caused eight confirmed deaths since 1990 in the US, and around 1000 in all of North and South America. Incidents of non-fatal, but certainly very painful attacks have also been on the rise. While the number of "popsicles for owies" have virtually skyrocketed.
Killer bees are more aggressive towards humans, they inflict 10 times as many stings on average, their hives have a larger number of "guard" bees on alert for any perceived threat, and when they do perceive a threat, they'll send out ten thousand or so bees to swarm rather than the usual 100 or so. So, what? Just don't go out uppercutting beehives, no matter how boring the weekend gets, and you'll be fine, right? Nope: The swarms can be triggered by virtually anything, like walking too close to the hive, or even the buzzing of lawnmowers and leafblowers.
Great, now they're angry -and- horny.
And in case you're still not afraid, possibly charmed by their adorable little striped bodies -- like they're all wearing tiny Charlie Brown sweaters -- consider this: They're so bloodthirsty that, if you use the old "jump into water to escape" tactic, they will not leave, but instead simply hover at the surface, waiting for you to come up for air so they can sting your god damn face to death. As a great man once said: "How the hell do they know how to do that? They're fucking animals!" (Yes, Bill Paxton from Aliens does too count as a "great man.")
Where's his parade?
What the hell did we do?
In 1957, a beekeeper in Brazil bred domesticated European honey bees with their distant cousin, the African bee, which had developed in a wilder environment where brutal defense tactics were necessary. When these hybrids inevitably escaped, the Brazilian government actually labeled the beekeeper a "mad scientist" and insinuated that he deliberately released them, presumably so he could take over the world while shouting bee-based puns from atop his black and yellow-striped battle blimp.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, the truth is not nearly as interesting: The guy was just looking for a way to make European bees flourish in a warmer, tropical environment, and got careless. But regardless of motive, the bees escaped, and once released, began to mate with other native bee species. Despite massive efforts to stop them, the killer bee invasion spread up through Central America at a rate of 200 miles per year, and eventually made its way into the southern half of the United States. And they are still moving North because we just plain don't know how to fucking stop them.
Flamethrowers. How many times do we have to tell people?
Wolves have gotten a bad rap where pop-culture is concerned: They're constantly menacing peasants or participating in rape metaphors involving young girls visiting elderly relatives. But despite this age-old slander, not a single wolf-related fatality was recorded in the entire 20th century for all of North America. Even non-fatal attacks happened less than once a year.
Regular dogs kill more people.
But just as humanity started changing its tune and embracing our awesome wolf brothers -- depicting them as sexy, caveman-faced hunks in Twilight, buying our three-wolf shirts, and teaching them to high five on command -- everything changed. After 100 years of peace, there have been two fatal wolf attacks in the last decade. Less-fatal skirmishes are also getting more frequent, as well as attacks on livestock and pets.
What the hell did we do?
Two things lie behind the twenty-first century's Rise of the Wolves (as our grandchildren will surely call it, in hushed whispers, lest the Great Pack hear them and sniff out their hiding caves).
They tore our greatest armies into Kibbles and Bits
The first is habituation, which is the same problem as the cougars, essentially. We have taught them to be unafraid; they think of us as free meals in pants. The other reason is the increase in the number of wolf hybrids. There are dog/wolf mixes being currently and deliberately bred by people who decided that owning a dog didn't make them feel masculine enough. The only problem being that these hybrids have a tendency to combine hunting instincts with people-friendliness, which in turn leads to a lot of people in Tapout shirts getting mauled.
"Man, one of those would look pretty bitchin' in my living room."
But there's a far more dangerous hybrid out there: In 20th century North America, hunting and deforestation in the east almost completely killed off the wolf population .This allowed the more adaptable coyote to spread eastwards in their place.
Eventually, the wolves and coyotes started falling in love -- nudging deer eyeballs adorably at one another, maybe inadvertently sucking down different ends of the same tendon and having their bloody muzzles meet in the middle -- and then came all the little hybrid pups being delivered by the storks, who were, of course, mauled to death upon landing. Because these hybrids are not only more numerous than wolves, but are actually more dangerous than their purebred counterparts. They're called coywolves (a portmanteau of coyote and wolf) and like the dog hybrids, they combine the wolf's tendency towards pack hunting and predation with the coyote's lack of shyness around humans.
So...they should be called 'not-so-coywolves'?
Unlike the dog hybrids, however, there's nothing rare or exotic about them: The coywolves have seen a massive population boom in the Northeast, replenishing the dwindling wolf numbers and then some. So, because we hunted them nearly to extinction, the wolves have essentially formed an alliance with the coyotes and birthed a whole new creature...and it is not afraid of us. In the words of Roland Kays, Curator of Mammals at the New York State Museum: "We drove this species from the area and it...came back in another form." We can only assume he was abruptly pulled away, screaming, before he could append "for vengeance" to that statement.
Humans have long considered elephants our adorable phallic-faced friends. We pet them in zoos, ride on them on vacation, and draw cartoons about them discovering the inner power within themselves. For creatures their size and overall power, elephants are pretty chill, really.
A little homophobic sometimes, but pretty chill.
But not anymore.
Elephant attacks on humans have dramatically increased in the last couple of decades, and elephant-related deaths now number in the hundreds every year.
Who the fuck thought it was bright to arm them?
What the hell did we do?
In the wild, elephants grow up inside an intricate social structure. Much like humans, elephant children stick with their parents for a long time, and even when they're fully grown, they communicate with each other almost constantly. They even mourn their dead. This complicated structure basically serves to civilize the young elephants. It teaches them how to be reasonable, happy, productive members of society.
That is, unless humans kill the elephant's entire family, leaving him a broken shell of an elephant with nothing to lose.
So if you're going to poach, poach thoroughly.
Poaching, hunting, and other general dickhead behavior have messed up the social structure of elephant culture so much that it has begun to break down altogether. Gangs of roving elephant berserkers now haunt Africa and India, attacking and terrorizing the species that killed their families...which is us.
That's right: Elephants are now basically a species-wide Batman.
...except instead of just hunting down human criminals, they attack villages, crops, cars, and pretty much anything else that gets in their way. We're not just talking trampling deaths, or goring when cornered, or any other behavior that can be chalked up to misunderstanding: Elephants are actually ambushing villages in the night, pinning people down, and savagely stabbing them to death with their tusks, not stopping until a compassionate and understanding elephant leader drags them away while whispering "it's over, Wrinkles, it's over. He's dead. It's done, man. It's done."
Who could have guessed this would come back to haunt us?
In the last three decades, three people have been killed in the Great Kali River, which forms part of the border between Nepal and Northern India. It's strange, because crocodiles and other major aquatic predators are unknown in the area, and besides that, witnesses described the unfortunate victims being dragged underwater by something that looked like an "elongated pig," never to be seen again.
Was this the long-awaited Revenge of the Baconed?
But alas, scrap your design sketches for Pig-Shark: The River Stalker, because we already know the killer: Catfish. Yep, the fish with the cute whisker-looking things on its face that goes well with cornmeal. Like a Yakov Smirnoff routine come to life, the Goonch catfish native to the Great Kali river have begun eating YOU.
What the hell did we do?
The Great Kali River is a popular resting place for bodies after Hindu funeral rites, in which the dead are cremated on the river's edge. The funeral pyres eventually sink into the river, where they become easy meals for the local catfish. After years of nibbling on the freshly cooked corpses, the catfish have developed an insatiable taste for human flesh. And that's absurd, really: If somebody pitched that to you as the premise for a horror movie, you'd ball up their script and hurl it into the garbage, laughing -- or else give them directions to the abandoned gas station that houses the SyFy Channel headquarters.
"Fantastic! We'll call it, Goonched."
But it actually gets even crazier: In 2008 a British biologist managed to catch one of the creatures by luring it in with a fake funeral pyre. His catch revealed that this diet has also allowed the already-massive Goonch catfish to increase significantly in size. But how big could a catfish possibly be? You order it in a restaurant and you're hungry again an hour later, right?
These monsters often measure around six feet long and weigh over 150 pounds!
Oh, and some species of catfish have fucking legs.
So, there you go. Now you know what to pray for at night: That nobody starts a beach-themed funeral home in your town, because apparently all it takes to turn the menu from Red Lobster into a stygian nightmare is your dead grandmother's thigh meat.
We'd like to conclude this article by saying: Buy guns. Lots and lots of guns.
Order the Cracked.com book, which is the only place you can read about Four Mythological Beasts That It Turns Out Actually Exist. For more ways Mother Nature is downright frightening, check out 5 Lovable Animals You Didn't Know Are Secretly Terrifying.
And stop by Linkstorm to learn how you can arm yourself against Mother Nature's hooligans..
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