We’re all well aware nature is full of terrifying killing machines like just about every animal in Australia and bears and lions and hippos. But while nature was kind enough to make sharks and tigers look like tooth-filled murderbots, she toyed with us on a number of her smaller killing machines. Sure, spiders are ugly as an 8-legged butt with too many eyes, but how come these lil fellas look cute as a button and can drop you like a sack of easily poisoned meat?
Poison Dart Frog
A good sign that you should avoid the poison dart frog is the fact it has “poison dart” in its name. If you worked with a girl named Poison Dart Sarah and guys in the office told you to avoid her, there would be an awesome story behind it you’d be best to heed.
Despite being awesomely colored and the size of your thumb, these frogs contain enough toxic goo to kill 10 full grown men. Why so deadly? It’s a part of the frog’s diet, a beetle, that gives it it’s delicious, poisonous skin. In fact, if you remove a poison dart frog from its environment and raise it elsewhere, feeding it less exotic foods like burritos or whatever frogs like, it will eventually lose its toxicity.
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Everyone knows about fugu, the Japanese delicacy made from toxic pufferfish. This makes sense because Japan is the country where panty vending-machines and tentacle porn come from. To the rest of the world, a puffer fish looks like a Pokemon that contains something called tetrodotoxin, a toxic compound that’ll kill you where you stand. There are about 200 cases a year of fugu poisoning people due to improper preparation and about half of those result in death caused by slight exposure to the toxin, which is concentrated in the liver and gonads, but can also be found in the skin of the fish.
How deadly is tetrodotoxin? About 1200 times more deadly than cyanide. A single, big-eyed little fella can kill about 30 humans.
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Look at that cute little bird, all orange and black. Is it an Oriole? No, because Orioles don’t kill you. This is the Hooded Pitohui, a songbird from New Guinea. It contains a toxin in its skin and feathers called batrachotoxin that it gets from beetles it eats and, fun fact, is the same toxin you’ll find in a poison dart frog.
Touching a Pitohui will result in numbness and tingling in your hand. Try to smuggle one in your pants and you’re likely to experience cardiac arrest. Eat one and you’ll probably just collapse in a heap.
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If a cat and a monkey had a baby, it’d be a slow loris. They look like Disney cartoons and they seem to be stoned all the time as well, making them appealing on numerous levels. They’re so adorable there’s an illegal pet trade for them and they often have their teeth yanked out so they can be sold to venal, shallow monsters who want a unique pet that no one else has.
Fairly unique amongst mammals, the loris has a gland in its arm that it can lick. When the secretions from the gland mix with their saliva, it becomes toxic and then, if the loris bites you, you get to enjoy a pretty terrible reaction. Is it as poisonous as a dart frog? No. But it can kill via an anaphylactic reaction and, as an added bonus, apparently the slow loris doesn’t like to let go once it bites, so it’ll just sit there with its teeth in you, oozing poisoning spit into the wound, until one of you gives up.
African Crested Rat
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Also known as the Maned rat, this poor man’s porcupine is an industrious little murderer. Not poisonous on its own, the rat chews the bark of trees that native people had used for years to make poisoned arrows that can kill elephants. It then spreads the toxin on its back by licking itself and special hairs absorb and store the poison. When threatened, it flexes muscles that cause all of its other hairs to lay down, basically exposing a strip of poison hair for anyone who wants a taste.
Why doesn’t the rat die from chewing the poison? No one knows yet, but just don’t pet one and you’ll be fine.
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With his beady little eyes and long nose, the solenodon looks like he should be the nerdy sidekick to a character in a Dreamworks animation production. In real life, they’re just weird, little shrew-like creatures in the Caribbean known for having poison spit (and also for having nipples on their butt. Go figure).
The solenodon’s toxin is produced in glands in its mouth and injected through its lower teeth. It’s a neurotoxin that can lead to convulsions and paralysis and eventual death in prey animals. Lucky for humans, our size means the little buggers can’t kill us in one bite, just produce extreme pain and a sense of dread that an animal the size of a fart may have the ability to kill us.
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One of the few toxic mammals in the world, the male platypus has a small spur on its hind leg that produces a toxin. Why a hind leg spur? Why a duck beak on a mammal that lays eggs? Too many questions for us to answer here.
The toxin produce by the platypus is not deadly to humans, but it is so painful it’ll drop you where you stand if one of the little sideshow’s sticks you with it. The wound and entire area where you were stuck swells immediately and brings with it an increased sensitivity to pain that can last for months.
The pain of a platypus sting is so intense it can actually incapacitate you and is also pretty much impossible to overcome. Tylenol? Morphine? These things have no effect. You just have to ride it out. A former member of the Australian Army, who received the Victorian Cross for valor, reported that a platypus sting hurt worse than being hit with shrapnel. A month later the wound still hurt and 15 years on there was still stiffness and physical discomfort around the area. So yeah, the platypus doesn’t mess around.