Traveling to far-flung locales always has its perils, and it’s good to be forewarned before taking flight. For this reason, we’ve created a list of the Top 10 Most Lethal Creatures on the face of the Earth – with tips on how to identify them, avoid them, and (if worst came to worst) treat their deadly stings, bites, and secretions.
Claim to Fame: The “world’s most venomous creature”.
How to ID it: With an “umbrella” that’s cube-shaped rather than domed, the box jellyfish boasts 15 tentacles, 24 eyes, four brains, and 60 anuses!
Where You’ll Find It: The most deadly species live in the sub-tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans and favor calm, shallow waters and rivers’ mouths.
How It Attacks: It’s transparency makes it almost invisible, often sneaking up on you unaware. Each of its tentacles has 500,000 harpoon-shaped needles that simultaneously inject venom into its victims.
What Happens to Your Body Venom attacks the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. You’ll experience shock and pain so unbearable that you’ll likely die of heart failure or drown before you can even reach the shore.
Emergency Treatment: Before and after removing the stinging tentacle (with a towel or gloved hand), flood the sting with vinegar. Apply ice cubes for pain. In the event of cardiac arrest, perform CPR before heading to a hospital.
Death Quotient : Over 5,500 deaths have been recorded worldwide in the last 50 years.
Claim to Fame: One shot of its venom is lethal enough to kill 25 humans within minutes.
How to ID it : When resting, this golf ball-sized octopus camouflages itself to fit in with sand and rocks. However, when excited (or provoked), its skin glows brightly as do its ring-shaped markings in neon blue and black.
Where You’ll Find It: In Pacific Ocean tide pools, from Japan to Australia.
How It Attacks: Although not aggressive, the blue-ringed octopus doesn’t like being provoked – put a hand or foot close to one, and you could get a nastry bite in return. The bite itself is painless; but when the venom kicks in, watch out.
What Happens to Your Body: Be prepared for weakness and numb muscles, followed by muscle paralysis and respiratory failure. In untreated, this lethal venom can kill.
Emergency Treatment: Paralysis can occur within minutes. Apply immediate pressure to the wound and prepare to perform mouth-to-mouth resuscitation since respiratory muscles can freeze up. Although there’s no known anti-venom, if you make it through the first 24 hours, you’ll make a full recovery.
Death Quotient: Only three known deaths have been registered, but the danger is so present in Australia that many beaches have signs warning against the presence of blue-ringed octopuses.
Claim to Fame: The world’s most venomous spider.
How to Id it: This large, hairy brown spider has eight spiny legs, eight beady eyes, and two very creepy red-colored fangs.
Where You’ll Find It: In Central and South America (particularly Brazil). Wanders the jungle floor at night and by day it rests in damp, dark places: beneath logs, under rocks, and amidst clumps of bananas (there have been cases of spiders emerging from banana bunches to bite victims in European supermarkets). It also likes hiding out in cars, houses, boxes, clothing, and shoes.
How It Attacks: When disturbed, this spider rears up to expose its fangs before sinking them into victims’ skin. Because it has trouble biting into human beings, it’s only able to its inject venom in 30% of cases.
What Happens to Your Body: You’ll feel brutal pain and swelling, followed by loss of muscle control and find yourself gasping for breath. Men beware; the venom can also cause priapism – a highly uncomfortable erection – which lasts for hours and can lead to impotence.
Emergency Treatment: Bleed the wound wound to wash out any foreign material (many bites are so small that they seal immediately). Apply an antiseptic and use ice to soothe swelling and pain. If serious symptoms appear, emergency medical attention and the application of an anti-venom is necessary.
Death Quotient: No human casualties have been recorded since an anti-venom was developed in 2004.
Claim to Fame: While other scorpions are all bark and no bite, this guy’s bite not only results in serious pain, but can prove fatal as well.
How To ID it: This eight-legged, yellow-colored creature is easy to recognize due to its grasping claws and long, narrow tail that curves forward and ends in a venomous stinger.
Where You’ll Find It: Desert and dry scrublands of North Africa and the Middle East.
How It Attacks: Scorpions are only on the go at night (70 percent of all attacks take place after dark). By day, they favor dark places: under rocks, in your bed, or in your shoes. The Death Stalker attacks by stinging victims with a poisonous hook on its tail.
What Happens To Your Body: Unbearable, burning pain, accompanied by numbness, fever, and swelling around the site of the sting. In severe cases, you’ll experience convulsions and paralysis before falling into a coma, and dying.
Emergency Treatment: Clean the sting with an antiseptic cleanser and apply an ice pack. Take an antihistamin to reduce swelling and itching. Signs of severe poisoning include muscle spasms, impaired vision or speech, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing and require taking an anti-venom.
Death Quotient: Although 100,000 cases are reported each year, few adults actually die. Most fatalities involve children, the elderly, or people with heart conditions.
Claim to Fame: The most poisonous snake on the planet; a single bite contains enough poison to kill 100 humans.
How to ID it: Measuring some 2 meters, the smooth scaled Taipan ranges in color from tan to a brown, changing according to the seasons.
Where You’ll Find It: The Australian Outback
How It Attacks: The Taipan is extremely shy so attacks are very unlikely. It hunts at night, preferring to sleep in cool, dark holes during the day. However, when the snake does attack, it moves lightning fast, lunging, and biting into its victim with its venom-filled fangs.
What Happens to Your Body: Death can be a drawn-out and excruciating process. Initial symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and severe stomach pains. If left untreated, the pain will become agonizing. You’ll suffer convulsions and start frothing at the mouth, before experiencing respiratory failure, paralysis, coma, and finally, death.
Emergency Treatment: Since the Taipan’s venom is an anti-coagulate, bleeding the poison out could cause you to bleed to death. Seek emergency treatment to receive an anti-venom.
Death Quotient: There have been no recorded deaths.
Claim to Fame: The world’s longest, and most powerful poisonous snake.
How to ID it: The hooded King Cobra can grow to up to 5.5 meters in length. Its smooth scales are olive-green, tan, or black with pale yellow bands. Its head is massive, the better with which to swallow its victims whole.
Where You’ll Find It: The dense highland forests of India and Southeast Asia.
How It Attacks: It can strike from 2 meters away and it attacks quickly, rising up in the air, staring you right in the eye, and hissing. It then attacks by delivering multiple bites in one lunge, or by biting down and holding on with two small, sharp fangs that inject a massive dose of venom.
What Happens to Your Body: Venom quickly attacks the central nervous system inducing severe pain, blurred vision, dizzyness, drowsiness, and paralysis. If untreated, heart failure followed by coma and death can ensue. A single bite can cause the death of a healthy adult in 15-30 minutes.
Emergency Treatment: Apply a tourniquet to the wound to prevent the venom from circulating and then get to a hospital for anti-venom.
Death Quotient: Although most bites involve non-fatal amounts of venom, every year several deaths are recorded.
How To ID it: Its conical outer shell comes in a variety of colors (black, brown, gold, orange) and feature intricate white patterns or spots.
Where You’ll Find It: In the warm waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, usually on or near coral reefs. Sightings are particularly numerous in the waters off the Philippines, Vietnam, and Australia.
How It Attacks: If you’re seduced into picking one up, the snail will shoot a harpoon-shaped “tooth” into your skin (it can even pierce a wetsuit) through which its deadly venom is injected.
What Happens to Your Body: Intense pain, swelling, weakness, numbness, tingling, and loss of coordination. In severe cases, you’ll experience muscle paralysis, impaired vision, hearing, and speech, and respiratory failure.
Emergency Treatment: There is no known anti-venom. Wrap a cloth or gauze bandage over the wound and apply pressure to prevent the venom from spreading. In the event of breathing problems, perform mouth-to-mouth before seeking immediate medical aid.
Death Quotient: Only 30 known deaths around the world have been recorded.
Claim to Fame: The name “dart frogs” stems from the fact that indigenous Amerindians use the frogs’ venom to poison the tips of their blow darts – a properly prepared dart can remain lethal for up to 2 years.
How to ID it: This small (2-cm-long) frog is beautifully patterned and brightly colored.
Where You’ll Find It: The rainforests of Central and South America. Unlike most frogs, which are nocturnal, dart frogs enjoy the light of day.
How It Attacks: When stressed, poison is secreted through the frog’s microscopic skin glands. Touching a frog won’t cause any problems unless you have an open sore or wound (or lick your fingers); then the toxins enter your blood stream and you can die within 5 minutes.
What Happens to Your Body: The secreted toxin attacks your nervous system, inducing strong muscle contractions, violent convulsions, salivation, heart arrhythmia, and in extreme cases, heart failure and death.
Emergency Treatment: There is currently no effective antidote.
Death Quotient: No available statistics.
Claim to Fame: The world’s second most poisonous vertebrate.
How to ID it: When threatened, the deadly Pufferfish fills it’s highly elastic stomach with water, “puffing up” to three times its normal size.
Where You’ll Find It: In tropical waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, usually close to shore and near the ocean’s surface. However, in Souteast Asia, you’re just as likely to find Pufferfish on your plate; as a delicacy, it’s very popular in Japan and Korea.
How It Attacks: The Pufferfish’s skin and certain internal organs are highly toxic to humans. Most poisoning occurs when the fish is prepared incorrectly. The most frequent cause of death involves people who eat puffer soup.
What Happens to Your Body: Within 10-20 minutes of ingestion, puffer poison will numb your tongue and lips, and lead to dizziness and vomiting, followed by prickly sensations and numbness. In severe cases, your muscles will become paralyzed, which can lead to respiratory failure.
Emergency Treatment: Induce vomiting if you ate the fish within three hours. Lie on your side. Serious cases require a trip to emergency for intestinal decontamination with gastric lavage.
Death Quotient: Roughly 100 people die every year of Pufferfish poisoning.
Claim to Fame: The most poisonous fish in the world releases venom that results in the worst pain known to human beings.
How to ID it: The Stonefish is gruesomely ugly with tough, warty skin that may be covered with slime. Its resemblance to stones provides the fish with a highly efficient disguise.
Where You’ll Find It: In the shallow tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, extending from the Red Sea, north to China and east to Hawaii.
How It Attacks: The Stonefish stores its toxins in 13 scary-looking dorsal spines. One or more of these can end up in your foot if you inadvertently step on one while swimming in shallow waters or walking on the beach.
What Happens to Your Body: The venom causes such agonizing pain that you’ll likely become frantic and delirious, and beg to have the affected limb amputated. In severe cases, the pain is accompanied by shock, paralysis, and tissue death.
Emergency Treatment: Applying hot water to the injured area has been found to destroy Stonefish venom. For more extreme cases, seek an anti-venom.
Death Quotient: Fatalities are rare. To date, there are only five deaths on record.
Have you encountered these or any other dangerous creatures yourselves? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.