The 8 Most Terrifying Diets in the Animal Kingdom
Animals eat insects, their own poop and sometimes their own children. So what in the hell could qualify as a weird diet in the animal kingdom?
Trust us -- when you think you've seen it all, Mother Nature only takes that as a challenge. That's how we wound up with ...
Bugs That Drink Bitter Tears
An adult moth lives only to mate. It has little need for food (it stores up nutrients during the larval stage and just lives off of them like a trust fund). Instead, it fuels its lifelong sexathon with natural sports drinks.
Normally, this means sipping nectar from flowers, but some moths, who were possibly molested as caterpillars, have evolved to literally feed on sorrow.
Tear-drinking moths, probably the world's biggest assholes, sneak up on larger animals and poke them in the eyes until they cry so they can drink the tears. Different species favor different victims, but all prefer animals that have no means of brushing them off. Species on some continents target slow, grazing mammals, deer or even crocodiles, while a species in Madagascar attacks birds as they sleep, digging between their eyelids with a proboscis covered in barbs. What a dick.
Because Mother Nature is clearly some kind of sociopath, there are also at least three species of tear-drinking bees, all from Thailand. Like Simon Cowell, these little bastards derive their nutrition from human tears, and are found swarming around movie theatres whenever a new Pixar film comes out.
"We'll eat for weeks."
Though it's not like they're actually eating their eyes, right?
The Shrimp That Eats Eyes
Eyeless, limbless and wormlike, the Ommatokoita is a crustacean, related to lobsters and shrimp, though we're pretty sure it doesn't taste as good with warm butter. Most of its cousins actually work for a living, scavenging the ocean floor, but Ommatokoita is the lazy bum of the crustacean world, as it craves only one horrible, horrible thing.
Ommatokoita feeds off the eyeballs of the Greenland shark, a shark so badass it will eat a goddamned polar bear. The parasite burrows itself into the shark's eye and then just anchors itself there, drinking delicious eye-jelly. It sits there, eating eyeball, for the rest of its life. Just more proof that the ocean is literally made of horror.
Luckily for the Greenland shark, it doesn't actually need eyes to hunt -- it's just that badass. Extra lucky, because almost all Greenland sharks have hell-shrimp in their eyes. Some scientists have postulated that the parasites may attract prey to the shark like symbiotic fishing lures. That's right -- the shark finds itself in a situation where bugs are eating its eyeballs forever and manages to benefit from it.
"Excellent. Sea monsters are eating my eye ... all goes according to plan."
Skuas Eat Terror Vomit
With apologies to the eye-poking moth, there may be an even bigger asshole in the animal kingdom. The skua, kind of a dickhead seagull, is what's known as a kleptoparasite. Next time your roommate raids the fridge and eats your food, call him this and see how he reacts.
While other seabirds waste valuable energy catching fish, the skua takes a schoolyard bully approach and just harasses the shit out of its seagull cousins, dive-bombing and terrorizing them until they're so exhausted and terrified that they have to puke. This is the skua's goal. While the victim is rocking back and forth in a fetal position somewhere, the skua swoops down and slurps up a nice, curdled mass of stinking, partially digested seafood.
Hey, it's a delicacy in some places.
During winter months, terror vomit can account for up to 95 percent of a skua's diet, making it the only thing in nature with grosser eating habits than Guy Fieri. Of course, if the victim doesn't have anything to throw up, the skua will eventually get sick of trying to scare it and will simply kill and eat the bird. Thankfully, schoolyard bullies don't take their tips from the animal kingdom.
"Gimme yer lunchseal!"
Caecilians Eat Their Mothers' Skin
Though they look like earthworms, these burrowing animals are actually amphibians, like frogs and salamanders, though unlike many other amphibians, the females build a nest where they dutifully protect their babies until they're large enough to fend for themselves. So dutifully, in fact, that they never even leave them to look for food, having evolved an alternative as heartwarming as it is nauseating.
Every three days, baby caecilians employ specialized, temporary fangs to strip the skin from their mother's body and feast upon it.
"We're actually much worse than we look!"
Luckily (or horrifically, depending on how you look at it), the caecilian mother has the rejuvenation skills of Wolverine. So she can look forward to weeks of tiny worm monsters cannibalizing her again and again and again. At this point we forget whether we're writing an article about animals or Dante's Inferno.
Moms of the world, before you bitch at your kids about everything you sacrificed to make them happy, consider for a moment whether you would have let them gnaw your boobs off over and over. Yeah, we didn't think so.
Dracula Ants Are Worse Than Vampires ...
Your typical colony of ants is literally one big, happy family. Unless, of course, we're dealing with the Madagascan genus Adetomyrma, who in any other country would have insect social services busting down their doors. They would be like, ladybugs or something, with little warrants written on buttercup petals.
Members of Adetomyrma are also known as Dracula ants and have been called a "missing link" between ants and their close cousins, the wasps. To other insects, this is like being chased by the missing link between wolves and grizzly bears. You can already tell this only gets more horrible.
Really? Things don't move up from "eyeless yellow demon"?
Not only do these unholy ant/wasp monstrosities murder you and feed you to their children, they then slice their own children open and suck your liquefied remains right back out of their guts. If a species that eats its own kids makes you think evolution forgot to carry the 1 at some point, then don't worry -- like their namesake, Dracula ants drink just enough blood to keep their victims alive and wriggling, to eventually turn into vampires themselves and continue the cycle of abuse.
Scientists call it "non-destructive cannibalism," but we like to call it "evidence that hell is right here on Earth and it's called Madagascar."
... And So Is the Vampire Finch
Getting stranded on a deserted island can lead to some pretty desperate behavior. Grown men talk to volleyballs, children worship dead pigs, and cute little Tweetie birds mutate into demonic ghouls.
And the worst version of Hamlet ever filmed.
On four of the Galapagos islands, the sharp-beaked ground finch leads a fairly normal little birdy life of eating bugs all day, but on the two barren, rocky islands of Darwin and Wolf, the same finches have diverged into a ghastly subspecies nicknamed the vampire finch, which wields razor-sharp peckers to feast on boobies (we're still talking about birds).
Vampire finches depend on fresh blood for protein and moisture during long droughts, and the boobies have so adapted to this horror that they barely even give a shit when they start getting beak-stabbed by the blood drinkers. The finches, you see, are really just the Biff Tannens of the bird world, and all the other animals have just had to learn to cope with the assholes.
When they're not actually pecking holes in other animals, the vampire finches supplement their diet by eating bird poop, as well as pecking the feathers off booby chicks and even pushing booby eggs out of their nests to smash them on rocks. They probably also trash hotel rooms and steal candy from babies.
Beetles That Eat Unborn Snakes
The life of a burying beetle is just marginally more romantic than that of those beetles that eat only poop. A freshly mated pair of burying beetles will actually bury an entire tiny animal corpse underground in one night, and the female spends the rest of her life chewing up rotten meat for her larvae. It's pretty goth, though one species has decided that it wasn't nearly creepy enough.
Nicrophorus pustulatus engages in the "normal" corpse-burying ritual of its cousins, but whenever possible, it prefers to raise its young on a wholesome diet of embryonic snakes. If she can find a snake nest with eggs, the mommy beetle lays her own eggs near them, and the larvae tunnel into the unborn reptiles, eat them alive and use the eggshells as their own protective nursery. We're pretty sure there's a horror movie somewhere that tried to use a scaled-up version of this plot but was canned for being way, way too horrible.
This kind of predatory stealth abortion makes the female pustulatus what is commonly known as "a psychotic bitch," or in scientific terminology, a "brood parasitoid." And while it's a tactic shared by many other insects, this is the first known case of an insect parasitizing the brood of a vertebrate. And in the never-ending horror show that is the animal kingdom, we can only assume that snakes are just the beginning.
"We'll be up in yo' uterus next."
Related: Massive Snake Spotted in Frick Park
Osedax Worms Eat Whale Bones (From the Inside)
In case you haven't heard, whales are big. The carcass of a whale weighs over 200 tons and takes months or even years to completely decompose. In the perpetual, freezing blackness of the deep sea abyss, a whale dying is like a zeppelin full of Big Macs crashing over Ethiopia. Entire ecosystems have evolved for the singular purpose of making sure no part of that whale goes to waste, not even its bones.
You might even call it a whale of a feast.
Forming over a whale corpse into what looks like pink fuzz are the countless tentacles of Osedax mucofloris, a relative of worms and leeches whose Latin name translates as "bone-eating snot-flower." We're not kidding.
Their microscopic eggs drift like spores in the deep ocean, lying dormant until the day they bump into recently exposed whale bone. On contact with the gigantic skeleton, they take root like plants, drilling into the bone with a network of fleshy tendrils.
"You say fleshy tendrils like they're a bad thing."
Completely lacking mouths or digestive tracts, the worms depend on symbiotic bacteria to break down the fatty oils contained within bone, so technically, they don't so much eat bone as eat the poop of something inside of them that eats bone. That's right: Nature found a way to make the bone-eating process even more disturbing.
You impressed us once again, Nature.
For more species that need to be eradicated immediately, check out 6 Animals Humanity Accidentally Made Way Scarier and 13 Real Animals Lifted Directly Out of Your Nightmares.
We aren't through terrifying you yet. There's more horror in our bestselling book.
And stop by Linkstorm for some fluffy bunnies.
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