11 Aug 2021


The planet is full of amazing animals that are mind-blowingly magnificent. But there are some animals that are pretty terrifying, weird and downright spooky in ways that might make you sleep a little less soundly this Friday the 13th. From blood-squirting lizards to deceivingly cute killer sea otters, there are plenty of creepy behaviours in the natural world, that far outdo the supernatural.

Here are 13 strange and terrifying facts about animals that’ll send a shiver down your spine.

1. This frog will kill you with a single touch.

Golden poison dart frog CC BY 2.0 / Orias1978 / Flickr

The golden poison dart frog (Phyllobates terribilis) is the size of a paperclip... but don’t be deceived by its tiny size! Its skin is coated in a lethal toxin that leaves the nerves and muscles of its victims inactive, leading to death. This little frog contains about one milligram of poison, enough to kill 10 - 20 humans if the poison reaches their bloodstreams.

2. This species doesn’t get the nickname ‘Black Death’ for nothing.

Cape Buffalo at Chobe National Park in Botswana= Africa
© Deborah Balcanoff

Cape buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) are extremely dangerous because of their unpredictable nature. That, plus their sheer strength and robust physique can knock out prey in an instant. They stalk and circle their prey before charging at speeds of up to 56 kilometers per hour – so, if you see one peeping at you through the African savanna grasses, you’d better duck for cover.

3. There are lizards that can literally squirt blood from their eyeballs.

Regal horned lizard
© Dave Beaudette

At least eight species of horned lizard (Phrynosoma) can aim and squirt blood from their eyes. They restrict the blood flow to their head until the pressure builds up, rupturing the vessels in their eyelids. They do this as a defence mechanism to confuse their predators. Freaky!

4. Meerkats are actually baby-killing beasts.

Meerkat and baby in Republic of South Africa
© Martin Harvey / WWF

If you thought your family dynamics were crazy, you haven’t seen anything. The dominant female meerkat (Suricata suricatta) in a clan controls breeding and kills the young of those that aren’t her own, ensuring that her own offspring has the best chance of survival.

5. Australia is home to possibly the most venomous marine animal in the world.

Small box jellyfish CC BY-SA 2.0 / gautsch. / Flickr

The largest box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) is common to Australia’s northern oceans (lucky us) and its sting can cause cardiac arrest in its victims. With tentacles that can grow up to three metres, it’s probably not ideal to go swimming with these horrors during the summer holidays.

6. One slip of the foot and you’re dead with these venomous snails.

Cone snail in Queensland= Australia CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Richard Ling / Flickr

While they might look beautiful, cone snails (Conus gloriamaris) have one of the world’s most painful and fatal ‘stings’. They fire a harpoon that can cause muscle paralysis and respiratory failure. Nicknamed the ‘cigarette snail’, its victims are said to only have enough time to smoke a cigarette before death.

7. You’re more likely to be killed by a cow than a shark. 

Cattle in Cairns= Australia
© WWF-Aus / Monique Isenheim

Yep, you read that right. More people die annually from getting kicked or stepped on by a cow. Also, it’s said that cows all over the world, simultaneously face the same direction while grazing. How’s that for a conspiracy theory? (Now that’s spooky).

8. A hungry female black widow + mating = cannibalism.

Black widow and its lunch CC BY 2.0 / siamesepuppy / Flickr

Female black widow spiders will often eat their male partner while mating.

9. Sea otters are so cute. They can also be aggressive killers. 

Sea otter in Alaska= USA
© Kevin Schafer / WWF

There have been reports that these lovable sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are serial harassers. When males mate, they’ll grab the female and aggressively bite her face. Not really the perfect date.

10. These bats, zey vant to suck your blood.

Vampire bat CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 / Paul / Flickr

Aptly named vampire bats, the most common one feeds solely on the blood of mammals, including humans. They’ll identify a warm spot on your skin to bite then create an incision with their razor-sharp teeth, lapping up the blood from the wound. Best to stay out of dark alleyways at night.

11. And the 'Parasite of the Year' award goes to...

Too creepy

Cymothoa exigua, also known as the tongue-eating louse, is a parasite that latches onto a fish’s tongue and feeds on the blood vessels. Eventually, the tongue falls off and the parasite attaches itself to what’s left and becomes the fish's new tongue. Isn't nature wonderful?

12. I'm Australian, I'm cute and I'm poisonous...

Burnie, Tasmania, Australia: March 2019: Platypus swimming in the river
Platypus swimming in the river © WWF-Australia / Lukas - stock.adobe.com

The male platypus has half-inch poisonous spurs located on the inner side of each back ankle. Scientists believe that males use these spurs to compete with rivals during the breeding season. A kick from one of these bad boys is potent enough to kill small animals and cause intense pain in humans.

13. The most terrifying animal of all is...

City life be like... CC BY-SA 2.0 / Kevin Case / Flickr

With over 7.4 billion people and counting, the human population is putting immense pressure on our planet as demand for the Earth’s natural resources grows. What’s terrifying is that Australia is among seven countries responsible for over 50% of global biodiversity loss. Now that’s a horrific statistic.

Happy Friday the 13th… and good luck sleeping well tonight.