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.


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, "

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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,

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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.

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.

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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

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right , for a change" level of madness.

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

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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

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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.

Tarantula Hawk

Paul Nylander, via Tucson Citizen

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:

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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

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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.

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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.

Blanket Octopus

Tree of Life Web Project

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

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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.

Creepy Animals

"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.

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