ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Nature's Deadliest

Updated on May 27, 2012

The Golden Poison Dart Frog

Despite its small size, this little frog contains enough venom to kill up to 100 people.
Despite its small size, this little frog contains enough venom to kill up to 100 people. | Source

How Humans use the Poison to Acquire Food

The Most Poisonous Animal

The golden poison-dart frog is a tiny creature that uses toxic chemicals as a defence in its body and is therefore technically a poisonous animal. Venomous animals on the other hand inject toxins via some sort of weapon, such as a tail, fang, spine, spur or tooth. The chemicals toxins only come into effect if the frog is actually attacked, and since it doesn’t want to be harmed, it advertises its lethality by sporting yellow or orange skin, a sure deterrent against even the most determined predators.

This little frog is not only the most poisonous of its frog brethren but possibly the most poisonous animal in the world. The toxin is in its skin- you can die even from the slightest touch, and each frog skin contains enough poison to kill up to 100 people. Though the frog has only been known to western science since 1978. The Chocó Indians that inhabit a small area of Colombia have known about it for generations, even going as far to use its skin gland secretions to poison their blowgun darts, enabling to despatch game in just a matter of seconds.

The golden poison dart frog gets most of its batrachotoxin or frog poison from other animals, mostly small beetles, which in turn get it from plants. Interestingly, poison dart frogs that are raised in captivity never become toxic at any time in their lives, presumably because they aren’t fed the toxic insects they would normally feast on in the wild. The frog is diurnal, and has few predators except for a snake that has evolved immunity to the toxin. Amazingly, birds have been discovered in New Guinea with the same kind of poison in their wings and feathers. The common link has been tracked down to a small beetle, similar to the species in Colombia that contain the batrachotoxin.

The Castor Bean Plant

The fruits of the castor bean plant.
The fruits of the castor bean plant. | Source
The beans that contain both the poison and the precious oil.
The beans that contain both the poison and the precious oil. | Source

The Deadliest Plant

The Castor bean plant produces possibly the deadliest plant toxin currently known, more than 6000 times more deadly than cyanide. Strangely though, for thousands of years it’s been known as a wonder plant, in fact one of the most useful plants known to man. Both the key to exploiting the wonder and releasing the poison lies with the seed. More than 50 per cent of it comprises of rich oil, but for protection it also contains ricin, a toxic protein that is lethal to almost all animals. If the poison is ingested, it shuts down the key protein building elements of a cell, without which it can’t survive without, resulting in death.

For animals like humans, the death is prolonged, ending in convulsions and failure of the liver and other vital organs. As of yet, there is no known antidote. The most usual cause of poisoning comes from the accidental ingestion of seeds. Ricin though, can be administered in aerosol form, in food or water, or injected, as in a famous case involving a dissident Bulgarian journalist. In 1978, Georgi Markov was waiting for a bus at Waterloo, when he was stabbed with an umbrella that injected a pellet containing ricin. This deadly poison is widely available and could prove to be a useful addition to the biological warfare arsenal.

It’s equally easy to extract the seed’s valuable oil, which has been used for at least 4000 years as lamp oil, soap and also as medicine for a huge array of different ailments. Today its uses include high grade lubricants, textile dyes, printing ink, waxes, polishes, candles and crayons. In the future, its array of protective chemicals may even provide a cure for tumours.

The Orca

After ourselves, this is the most formidable killer on the planet. Unsurprisingly it's also among the most intelligent non human animals.
After ourselves, this is the most formidable killer on the planet. Unsurprisingly it's also among the most intelligent non human animals. | Source

Exploring the Dolphin that kills Sharks

The Most Formidable Killer

So, which out of all of the fearsome predators on the Earth is the most formidable of all; one way of revealing the answer is to look at the largest animal that ever lived, the blue whale and see what can attack and kill it. There are only two kinds of animals that can do this, firstly ourselves with our modern weaponry and the orca or killer whale. But while blue whales may be enormous, they are rather docile creatures with few defences apart from their immense size, maybe a creature that is capable of attacking and killing a great white shark is better suited to the title of ‘most formidable killer.’ Again, we are capable of this, but we need our technology to make this possible. Imagine trying to take on Jaws armed with just physical strength and a few friends, this is exactly what the orca does successfully. At around 29 feet in length, the orca is the largest member of the dolphin family and among the largest of all predators. But what makes them all the more formidable is that their pack hunters and are able to work together to bring down large prey, they are truly the lions or wolves of the sea.

Several distinct forms of killer whale are known to science- the residents, transients and the offshores, each of which differ slightly in appearance, behaviour, group size and diet. It’s the transients that specialise in the larger prey items, but counter-intuitively they travel in smaller groups than their fish eating relatives; usually in groups of seven or fewer. The transients often devise different, sometimes ingenious ways of catching their prey. For instance, in the Antarctic they will tip seal and penguins off ice floes into the gaping mouth of one of its companions. In Patagonia they often risk their lives, beaching themselves in order to grab sea lion pups.

When Basque whalers first observed orcas feeding on the carcasses of dead whales, they called them ‘whale killers’ and the name stuck. Apparently, the ‘orca’ name is the more politically correct name to use, but the Latin translation is ‘belonging to the kingdom of the dead,’ so it’s not much of an improvement really.

The Different Types of Killer Whale

Killer whales vary enormously in diet and behaviour: Type's A and B primarily feast on sea mammals including whales, while Types C and D concentrate more on feasting on fish, including sharks.
Killer whales vary enormously in diet and behaviour: Type's A and B primarily feast on sea mammals including whales, while Types C and D concentrate more on feasting on fish, including sharks. | Source

The Real Life Dragon

Not only is the Komodo the largest lizard in the world, but it's also the largest venomous creature currently living on land.
Not only is the Komodo the largest lizard in the world, but it's also the largest venomous creature currently living on land. | Source

Man vs. Dragon

On the Island of Flores, Komodo Dragons once preyed upon dwarf humans- Homo Floresiensis- sometimes referred to as 'Hobbits'.
On the Island of Flores, Komodo Dragons once preyed upon dwarf humans- Homo Floresiensis- sometimes referred to as 'Hobbits'. | Source

When Humans First Met the Komodo's Larger Relative

The Deadliest Drooler

The Komodo dragon is a renowned giant, with the average male measuring it at around 8 feet long; some exceptional individuals do grow up to 10 feet long. Incidentally, the longest lizard of all is not that Komodo but rather its much slimmer relative the Salvadori monitor from New Guinea, although it must be noted that two thirds of its 9 feet body length is made up by its tail.

The Komodo though is the heaviest lizard of all, with an average weight of 130Ibs with some reaching nearly 180Ibs. It’s also one of the most fearsome predators you could ever have the misfortune of encountering anywhere on the planet. It has large, sharp, serrated teeth for cutting and tearing prey, but its concealed weapon is its bacteria laden saliva. Once bitten, the victim commonly escapes, but within a few days the effects of the bacteria take hold. All the while, the dragon is tracking it down using its acute sense of smell, a sense that also makes it a very efficient scavenger.

Not so long ago, the Island of Flores, one of the modern haunts of the Komodo was home to a strange cast of dwarf animals including a dwarf elephant and the famous dwarf humans nicknamed ‘Hobbits’ upon which the dragon probably preyed. While the Komodo is a giant by our modern standards, it’s a mere pygmy compared to some of its prehistoric ancestors. As recently as 50,000 years ago Australia was home to a true giant, a monster that measured 25 feet long and over 1300Ibs in weight. It’s known to science as Megalania prisca and it became extinct around the 50,000 year mark almost straight after the arrival of the first humans. It’s unclear whether humans were responsible for its extinction and the loss of the rest of the megafauna, and the debate surrounding the issue is one of the hotly contested issues in science today.

The Komodo poses relatively little threat to humans, and only really attacks whenever it feels cornered. Megalania on the other hand, regardless of whether or not it was a deadly drooler like the Komodo would have been a lizard worthy of both the utmost fear and respect.

The Electric Eel

There are several animals on the planet capable of emitting electrical shock. Out of all them though this is the most dangerous.
There are several animals on the planet capable of emitting electrical shock. Out of all them though this is the most dangerous. | Source

When a Caiman got Zapped

The Most Shocking Animal

The electric eel, the closest thing you can get to a living battery. It can grow up to 7 feet long, but all of its organs are packed in tightly behind its head, leaving 80 per cent of its body to generating electricity. It’s stacked with up to 6000 specially adapted muscle cells or electrocytes, aligned like the cells in a battery. Each electrocyte emits low voltage impulses that together can add up to 600 volts enough to render a human unconscious. The positive pole behind the eel’s head and the negative pole is at the tip of its tail. It tends to remain straight, when swimming, using its long ventral fin for propulsion, and so keeps an electrical force-field around itself.

Electricity affects almost every bit of the eel’s behaviour. As well as stunning or killing with high voltage pulses, it communicates with other eels electrically and uses a form of echolocation called electrolocation to detect objects and other creatures in the water. Fish and frogs make up the bulk of its prey, and it can use its electrolocation to detect and monitor the minute electric currents these and other living things produce. The electric eel cannot see well, but it matters very little, as its mainly nocturnal and lives mostly in murky water.

There are other electrified fish, including the related knifefishes, which generate their own electric field, only much weaker. They use it to sense objects, for hunting and communicating. The only other ‘shocking’ animals are the torpedo ray and the electric catfish, but neither come close to matching the electric eel’s shocking power.

The Beaked Sea Snake

Out of all the sea snakes, the beaked or common sea snake is the most dangerous in terms of fatalities.
Out of all the sea snakes, the beaked or common sea snake is the most dangerous in terms of fatalities. | Source

The Most Dangerous Snake in the World

As well as having a lethal amount of venom and long fangs. The saw scaled viper is the most aggressive snake in the world and thus the most dangerous to humans.
As well as having a lethal amount of venom and long fangs. The saw scaled viper is the most aggressive snake in the world and thus the most dangerous to humans. | Source

The Most Dangerous Snake

No list of natures deadliest would be complete without mentioning at least one species of snake. Very often with these creatures, defining which is the most dangerous depends largely on how you choose to measure danger. We measure danger through an animal’s ability to harm us, and many snakes are pretty good at that, although they do not hold any sort of desire to eat us, most kill when trying to defend themselves.

The one that kills the most often is the saw scaled viper. However it isn’t the most venomous, that dubious honour belongs to the sea snake whose highly toxic venom evolved to incapacitate fish and other marine creatures. Despite a formidable reputation they are rather placid in snake terms, lacking the fearsome striking fangs of vipers. The only time they do bite people is when accidentally handled in fishing nets. A more dangerous snake in terms of fatalities is the beaked sea snake, which inhabits coastal waters and thus comes into contact with people more often. Many sea snakes are found in Australian waters, and Australia is also the home of the greatest number of venomous snakes in the world. In fact 11 out of the top 12 in the world are found here, with the record holder being the inland taipan or fierce snake.

Australia however, doesn’t hold the record for the most dangerous of all the land snakes. When you take into account venom toxicity, venom yield, fang length, temperament and frequency of bite, then the out and out winner is saw scaled viper. It’s widespread, small (and easily looked) and very aggressive when threatened. As a result it probably bites and kills more people than any other snake. Its name comes from the fact that, when frightened, it rubs its scales together making a sawing noise- a reminder that most snakes would rather frighten people than actually bite them. Also, let’s not forget that despite their fearsome reputation, far more snakes are killed by people each year than vice versa.

Imagine Being Stung by Those

A sting from one those tentacles can result in death from heart failure for any unfortunate human.
A sting from one those tentacles can result in death from heart failure for any unfortunate human. | Source

The Most Painful Stinger

In the eyes of some, the box jellyfish is the world’s most venomous animal, but attaching such a label to this creature depends on what sort of criteria you use. For example, is it the most venomous creature you are ever likely to encounter, does it kill more people than any other, or are the chemicals in the venom the most toxic? Certainly, a single box jellyfish contains enough venom to kill at least 60 people, and many do unfortunately succumb after being stung.

The box jellyfish however, holds no desire whatsoever to harm humans in anyway, but it is a hunter. An adult typically is as large as a human head, with tentacles stretching up to 15 feet in length. Each one has a full array of powerful stinging cells, called nematocysts, and hunts mainly fish. Unlike many other jellyfish, it’s very active. It propels itself through the ocean depths in search of prey. Its number one weapon, apart from its tentacles is its transparency, which ensures that it remains invisible to fish and humans alike.

A box jellyfish has four bundles of about ten tentacles, with even the smallest stretching up to 6 feet. Each one carries around 3 million nematocysts. This deadly toxin contains chemicals that affect heart muscle and nerves and also destroys tissue. The purpose of all this is to simply kill a fish quickly to lessen the chance of escape. But if a box jellyfish should ever encounter a human, it may elect to sting in self defence. The pain is excruciating, and without any anti venom, a victim can die from heart failure in just a matter of minutes, additionally, the nematocysts fire not just on command but when stimulated physically or chemically. Curiously, despite their ferocity, the stingers cannot penetrate women’s tights, and until ‘stinger suits’ became available. Lifeguards patrolled the beaches wearing tights quite unashamedly.

More from Amazon and Ebay

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Angela, yes the child within me inspired me to write this article hahaha! Thanks for popping by, appreciate it.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 5 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Oh my!! My boys, and tom boy, will absolutely love this article, I can't wait to share. So well done! Thank You! and Voted up!

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks dmop, glad you liked it. I appreciate the follow and the fan mail too. Thank you.

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 5 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      Those are some fascinating deadly animals, and of course the plant. Voted up and interesting.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Nettlemere, I never knew either, so it was a real pleasure to discover that little gem. Thanks for popping by.

    • Nettlemere profile image

      Nettlemere 5 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      I never knew about the slightly different looking types of killer whale. Really interesting article.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you sammi and Cyndi, I knew there were a couple of types of killer whale, but researching this hub took my breath away. Thank you both for popping by.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Lesley, really glad you liked it, and thanks for the share too.

    • Cyndi10 profile image

      Cynthia B Turner 5 years ago from Georgia

      Hi JKenny, Killer hub! Lots of information and well written. My skin was crawling just to read about some of the killing properties of some creatures. All nature's way to perpetuate the different species. Voted up.

    • sammimills profile image

      sammimills 5 years ago from California, USA

      Awesome! Great facts you got there. Didn't know there were different types of killer whales. Voted Up!

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      Absolutely fantastic hub, fascinating information and great photos, well researched and excellent work!

      Voted up and shared.

      Best wishes Lesley

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Ah right, of course. It must have been an awesome time for you Dave. Thanks for that.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      no... no gloves... They have very tiny eyes... and they use a magnetic field to find food...I think she recognized me and other people as providers... cleaning her tank was always interesting.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks rahul, really glad you liked it. I saw your share on facebook, thanks very much for that, very much appreciated.

    • rahul0324 profile image

      Jessee R 5 years ago from Gurgaon, India

      Awesome Hub J! Loved it! Amazing facts... will admit I did know some.. but most were new for me..

      Sharing and upping!

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks Letitia, its amazing just how much regard and esteem the poison dart frog was held in by the local Indians. All the more amazing, considering that one false move resulted in death. Yeah, I liked the title as well, took me ages to think of it.

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 5 years ago from Paris via California

      Great idea for a hub. I found the fact that some bird feathers contain the same toxin as dart frogs particularly interesting. Throughout a good part of South America, the mucus of one genus of dart frog was long rubbed into the skin of birds to make their feathers grow out gold.

      I also love your header "The Deadliest Drooler". Very cute.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Cool! Did you have to wear any gloves or any other protection when feeding her? Thanks for popping by, Dave, appreciate it

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 5 years ago from Sacramento, California

      JKenny: Awesome hub. I used to care for an electric eel in an aquarium that I worked at. Her name was SMUD which is the accronym for the local power company. She was about 5 feet long, and prefered to be hand fed six inch silversides. Very gentle and never shocked me. She lived to be 22 years old which is remarkable for a species with a 12-14 year life span. Again... an awesome hub!

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Well, with a name like that. I don't think I'd want them anywhere near me either!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Well I'm not certain if the death frog is more toxic or not...but it might be!

      Cute little buggers...but I don't want one within a thousand miles of me!!

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      The Icelandic death frog? I've never heard of that one, I'll have to look that one up. If it is, I'll change the hub. Cheers Wesman.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      You already know I love these kinds of pages, but I must thank you for your snake analysis!! If I'd ever heard of the saw scale viper...I'd completely forgot about it.

      Oh, and is that frog more deadly than the Icelandic death frog?

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you Mary, I have heard of the Bufo Frog, but don't really know much about it, so I'll be very interested to read that hub of yours; and yes, you can use mine as link, no problem at all. Thank you once again.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you Angelo! Yes, nature seems to have an inexhaustible amount of ways that predators and prey can deal with each other. That's why I love it so much.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Hi Christopher, yes it is rather strange isn't it! We often associate deadliness with ferocity, but sometimes nature just doesn't work like that. Thanks for popping by, always appreciated.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      What an interesting Hub you have written! Lots of good info here and very well researched. We have the Bufo Frog that can be deadly to pets. He's found in warm climates in the US. I wrote a Hub about the Bufo. May I link this Hub into mine about the Bufo frog? I will vote this Hub UP, etc.etc. Thanks in advance.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Good article with lots of information. So Nature has many ways of killing prey or predators and each continues to adapt according to their needs. Voted up +

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      Strangely enough James, the scariest of all the creatures you have listed must be the little yellow frog. It's freaky to think that such a lovely cute little creature could kill you just from you touching it.

      Thanks for another very interesting article.

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thanks very much Sunshine. It's amazing how deadly doesn't necessarily mean ferocious. Thank you for dropping by, really appreciate it.

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 5 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Wow! Amazing hub! Excellent details and photos. Now I know what to look out for. Thanks for the warnings JKenny!

    • JKenny profile image
      Author

      James Kenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Thank you mjboomer, really glad you liked. Appreciate the visit.

    • mjboomer profile image

      Mike Elzner 5 years ago from Oregon

      Cool Hub, jkenny....Great info and pics