5 Tiny Animals That Deserve Their Own Horror Movie
Nature has a habit of taking every biological function (be it reproduction or hunting for food) and infusing it with more body horror than a black and white Scandinavian film about a cannibal orgy. That's because nature and monster movies apparently have the exact same goal -- to disgust and terrify any humans who witness them. Here are five scenes from the animal kingdom more grotesque than anything Hollywood has been able to dream up.
Surinam Toads Give Birth to Hundreds of Chestbursting Aliens at the Same Time
Even if you haven't seen the movie Alien (in which case you are wrong, about everything), you're probably still aware of the infamous chestburster scene, wherein a baby alien explodes from an astronaut's torso like Kool-Aid Man shoving his dick through a pumpkin.
Now, imagine if that alien burst from John Hurt's back instead, accompanied by about a hundred of its siblings. You're in luck, because that's not a movie, that's nature.
The paper-thin amphibian (paper-thibian?) you see below is a Surinam toad, a species of aquatic toad from South America that, quite frankly, looks fucking dead.
We've seen livlier Fruit Roll-Ups.
Seriously, it looks it got flattened by an 18-wheeler at a rest stop, and somebody just scraped it off the pavement and threw it in a river. But it turns out there's a good reason it looks this way, and it has everything to do with makin' babies in the grossest way possible. During the Surinam toad's 12-hour sex session, the female will squirt a hot batch of eggs onto the male's stomach. After he fertilizes those eggs like only a man can, they're transferred over to the lucky lady, who gets to carry them around on her back for four months like the steroid-born acne of a professional weightlifter.
This all could have been avoided if frogs had penises.
The eggs are snuggled into a spongy, honeycomb-like structure on the toad's back, at which point her skin grows over top of them like a slimy, corrupted pie crust. Finally, she looks like a regular-sized frog and not the undead pancake we showed you earlier.
Once the four months are up, those babies hatch with a vengeance:
The mother's still alive, though she wishes she weren't.
Yes, like tiny reanimated corpses clawing their way up from the filth of a forsaken, muddy graveyard, the fully-formed baby toads emerge from their fleshy cradles (they go from egg to tadpole to frog while safely entombed within their mother's skin, because the world is a terrifying place). After all one hundred or so of the toadlings have been expelled, the female sheds her mangled skin and returns to her normal "so flat it looks like a poorly manufactured rubber frog" state.
We can safely say that if human beings were forced to give birth by allowing our children to burst through our goddamn skin like mutant pods of overripe acne, we would've gone extinct almost immediately.
The Solidus Tapeworm Makes Its Victims Kill Themselves (If They Don't Explode First)
Slither is a film about parasitic alien slugs that invade a small North Carolina town and zombify the yokels by slithering down their throats and taking over their bodies. Eventually, the victims become slug monsters themselves, and by the end of the movie everyone looks like the sun-baked interior of a dumpster behind a cosmetic surgeon's office.
Note: This movie is a comedy.
As it turns out, the movie was a cautionary tale, because mind-controlling Slither slugs are 100 percent real:
Schistocephalus solidus is a hermaphroditic, parasitic tapeworm that specializes in tormenting both fish and fish-eating seabirds, because apparently they did something to really piss off the tapeworm community somewhere along the evolutionary line. The tapeworms begin their journey by laying their eggs inside host seabirds, which helpfully poop the eggs out into the ocean. The tapeworms save their evil for a single species of fish -- Gasterosteus aculeatus, or the three-spined stickleback. Once the three-spined stickleback eats a heaping helping of the infected bird poop, the tapeworms' disgusting super power is activated.
Worms that make us lose weight suddenly seem pretty all right.
See that bulging Santa belly? That swollen gut is 100 percent tapeworms. Once the Solidus worms safely lodge themselves in a stickleback's innards, they begin to grow. And grow some more. In point of fact, the tapeworms will keep growing until the poor fish's abdomen expands to horrific proportions like a waterbed full of snakes -- oftentimes the parasites wind up outweighing their host. Imagine if a person had a gut full of tapeworms that weighed more than they did ... nevermind, Slither did the imagining for us.
Rated R for brief sexual content.
And yet, a gory fish stomach explosion almost never occurs, because tapeworms are parasites, so it's in their best interest to stay inside the fish. Notice we said "almost never," because there are exceptions.
Even though it might not explode, the fish won't survive the infestation. That's because the tapeworms manipulate it into accidentally killing itself. They do this by slowly stealing all the fish's oxygen, forcing it to swim up toward higher water where oxygen is more plentiful. Unfortunately, there's also less food up there, and the fish eventually starves to death. But now, its corpse is conveniently floating on the surface for any seabirds that happen to fly by. Once the birds eat the dead fish, they become infected with the tapeworms, which lay their eggs and begin the circle of life anew.
We can understand why Sir Elton left this verse out.
Hawaiian Caterpillars Have a Predator Cloaking Device and Bloodlust
The Sci-Fi horror classic Predator stars a hulking invisible crab-faced space demon that uses its special cloaking ability to sneak up on people and rip their skulls out of their heads before they have any idea what's happening. The space demon also has dreadlocks, because vague racism makes everything scarier.
Mandibles barely beat out giant red lips in the design phase.
How could something like that possibly be more unsettling? How about if it was a camouflaged insect that ate its victims alive instead of merely pulling their bones out? Because that's exactly how the carnivorous caterpillars of Hawaii roll.
That's the Eupithecia caterpillar, paying tribute to the invisible alien that made sure that Jesse Ventura found plenty of time bleed after all. Instead of chewing on delicious screamless leaves like most caterpillars, these nightmare-fanged murder slugs prefer the shrieking flesh of ambushed victims:
Butterflies are so cute when they're babies.
Like the Predator, the Eupithecia caterpillar is a master of deception, with the ability to disguise itself as an anonymous leaf or twig until dinner comes stumbling by. Once an unsuspecting target is within range, the Eupithecia snatches it up in its horrific, eerily Predator-esque mandibles and proceeds to eat the terrifying shit out of it.
"She says the jungle ... it just came alive and took him."
In case Horrorpillar wasn't enough, there's also the Hyposmocoma molluscivora, which is the Buffalo Bill of the caterpillar world. See, the Hyposmocoma eats snails -- in fact, it's the only caterpillar currently known to science that eats any kind of shelled animal. But instead of blending into the background like the Eupithecia, the Hyposmocoma will wrap itself up in the shells of previously-digested snails and sneak up on its latest target while pretending to be a kindred spirit. That's right -- it ambushes other snails by wearing the skin of its former victims.
"Who keeps playing Goodbye Horses?"
Once it gets close enough to its prey, it ties the snail up in a silk net like a freaking spider, crawls inside the captive snail's shell, and eats it from the inside out.
So basically, they start dating.
So why is Hawaii the only place on Earth with horrific, meat-eating caterpillars? The answer appears to be evolution at its darkest -- since no uber-predators like ants or wasps are native to the area, these wriggling clawbeasts have simply evolved to fill the murder gap. Because you can't have a tropical paradise without scary mutant insects.
Peruvian Spiders Build Disturbing Blair Witch Towers for No Reason
If you are walking through the woods and see a geometric shape drawn into the ground (or even worse, built out of animal bones,) you know some evil shit is about to be summoned to life there. Your sacrificial blood is probably the only missing ingredient. So, for instance, you never see the titular witch in The Blair Witch Project; the three bumbling protagonists just find a bunch of ritualistic structures implying that some kind of Satanic shit is about to go down:
This is the Forest Witch Rune for "skip the sequel," a message many of us ignored until too late.
This is why to this day we're so fascinated by relics like Stonehenge -- it implies something freaky was going on there. Well, researchers in the Peruvian Amazon recently stumbled upon similarly mysterious tower-like silk structures scattered throughout the forest like they were dropped by a bunch of ghosts in a weekend crafting club. These " Silkhenges" were far too complex and numerous to just be random collections of jungle debris, so who (or what) built them? The Blair Witch seemed like a reasonable guess.
Though credible experts simply say, "Aliens."
The answer turned out to be spiders, because, of course, it was fucking spiders. That blob in the center is actually an egg sac:
Discovering that hideous jungle spiders built these structures was only part of the mystery, though. For one thing, what freaking spider builds a fenced-in tower? Also, each tower only contains one spider, which is strange as hell -- spiders never lay a single egg, because they realized long ago that reproducing in madness-inducing swarms was the best way to keep their stranglehold of fear on the world's population. The intricate design is confusing as well. Is it for protection? An elaborate trap to catch food for the incubating spider? Is it a jungle gym?
One of those infant playsets to teach the baby shapes and murder?
The best explanation thus far (a phrase here meaning "the one we prefer to believe over 'the tower is a shrine to Spider Odin'") is that these skittering bastards are ant eaters. That silky fence protects the baby spider from invading ants until it hatches, at which point it begins adorably devouring all those who sought to destroy it. As far as why they only lay a single egg in each cocoon, these spiders are ridiculously small, so it could very well be that one egg is all they can manage to squeeze out at a time.
The Irukandji Jellyfish Will Torture You Into Insanity
Hey, remember that horrifying ear worm thing in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan? The one that could get inside your skull and control your brain?
Or the hilarious version from Futurama?
If you don't, a slug probably ate your memory.
Well, there is a tiny little jellyfish that can't exactly turn you into a puppet that carries out its will, but can do something that is ... kind of scarier, actually.
The Irukandji Jellyfish is small enough to rest snugly on your thumbnail. It's so small that if it stings you, chances are you won't feel a thing. Until about 20 minutes later, that is, when the Irukandji's venom begins to work its sorcery. You experience all the usual jellyfish sting shenanigans -- you sweat, you get sick, your head throbs with pain. That's when the mortal dread begins to creep inside your brain and shriek your mind in half.
"Sounds good, let's make millions of them." -- Nature.
Victims of an Irukandji sting suffer what science creatively refers to as "Irukandji Syndrome." The jellyfish's venom causes the body to release a large amount of noradrenaline, triggering a fight-or-flight response in the victim which almost always ends in "trouser ruining panic" coming out on top. This can lead to severe hypertension and high blood pressure, which, along with causing spectacular pain, results in near-crippling anxiety, shock, and an " intense feeling of impending doom."
That's right. A symptom of this creature's bite is an overwhelming sensation of impending doom.
Judging by your current state, you must already have been bitten.
Oftentimes, the victim completely loses the will to live, and all but screams for the sweet release of a quick death. In this video, two divers barely make contact with the Irukandji (one of them gets touched with a broken tentacle that just happened to be on her wetsuit as she is taking off her glove), and are rewarded with 20 hours of agony:
They just kind of have to lie there in the hospital and endure the horrific symptoms, because there is no known cure or antivenom for an Irukandji sting. Luckily, the sting is rarely fatal in humans, because the Irukandji are apparently way more interested in making people writhe around in madness inducing pain for an entire weekend.
Related Reading: Some tiny animals are too adorable to run away from, and also terribly dangerous. Watching a giant otter murder an alligator really bumps your respect for the little guys up a level. And while the golden dart frog could easily fit in your shoe, it could also easily kill you. If you'd rather read about animals that couldn't give fewer fucks, click away.