5 Horrifying Real Life Animals That Are Sure to Give You Nightmares
Zombies, brain surgery, and mind-control scrotums... These 5 horrors will make your skin crawl
“All things bright and beautiful" went the song that many of us learnt as a child. “All creatures great and small". Glorious, isn’t it. It was a song popular among our Victorian ancestors, who enjoyed the notion of all animals living in harmony.
Ah yes, Jenifer the duck waddling around to Mr Bear’s house for a cup of tea. Graham the brave lion looking after all of his animal friends. Lisa the Tsetse fly, who lives exclusively off the blood of mammals, spreading Trypanosomiasis, otherwise known as the deadly Sleeping Sickness, around humans as she does so.
Hang on… What?!
That’s right. For every fluffy duckling, or adorable panda holding an umbrella, there are some really, really nasty living things out there, and we’re not just talking about the people on the board of FIFA.
We’ve rounded up five of the nastiest, vilest, and most despicable living things known to man. This is one zoo you won’t want to take a date to.
5) The Horsehair Worm
Some animals have a venomous bite. Some have mighty tusks or horns. Others have poisonous stingers. The Horsehair Worm, however, has a much darker trick up it’s nasty little sleeve: it can turn animals into zombies, and get them to do it’s bidding.
The male Horsehair Worm begins life as a tiny waterborne larva. Crabs and insects such a grasshoppers drink the water, in turn drinking the larva. Incubated in the body heat of its victim, the Horsehair Worm grows, ending up resembling, well, a horse hair. As it grows, it nourishes itself by eating the living tissue of the animal it’s residing in.
When the Horsehair Worm reaches maturity, it feels the urge to procreate, but has a problem that female Horsehair Worms live in water. Cue zombies. The male Horsehair Worm attaches itself to the brain of its host, and effectively reprograms the host to do it’s bidding.
It forces the insect to find the nearest body of water and throw itself in. The host then drowns in the water and the Horsehair worm burrows out, mating with a female, which then spawns many more larva. Grim.
No, Sacculina did not play wing-back in the 1970 Brazilian national side (that was Everaldo, obviously). Yes, Sacculina is a barnacle that has a form of chemical castration as part of its normal life-cycle. As you do.
From birth, female Sacculina inject themselves into the body of some species of male crab. When maturing, they merge from the body of the host, appearing as a large sack next to the genitals of the crab. From there it alters the crabs hormones, sterilising it’s reproductive organs, and emasculating it.
Next, Sacculina forces the crabs body to change, making it resemble a female of its species, and then alters its brain activity, so the once male crab performs female mating rituals.
This attracts male Sacculina, who then also attach to the poor crab’s genitalia and fertilise the female. Finally, still being controlled by the female Sacculina, the crab is compelled to release the fertilised eggs into the ocean, and even stir the water with its claws to help spread the infant Sacculina around, ensuring the cycle starts all over again.
3) Cymotha Exigua
Ah yes, the Cymothoa Exigua. It just rolls off the tongue doesn’t it. Or, at least it would if you still had a tongue.
Cymothoa Exigua is a tiny crustacean that, like most people in Florida, is partial to a fish called Red Snapper. Unlike our Floridian friends though, this nasty little critter doesn’t use a line and a net to catch its prey.
It swims through the gills of its victim, up through the head, and attaches itself to the host's tongue. It then effectively anaesthetises the tongue, so the fish doesn’t know it’s there, before digging in its claws and drinking the blood in the tongue.
The Cymothoa Exigua then grows as it feeds, which in turn cuts of further blood-flow to its host's tongue, which ultimately causes the tongue to wither, die, and fall off. When it’s gone, the Cymothoa Exigua sits happily in the tongues place, and the fish is apparently none-the-wiser. In fact, it will even fuse itself to the muscles that once controlled the now long-gone tongue, ensuring it has a home in the Red Snapper’s mouth for the rest of its life.
And why does this creature go through the gruesome, mutilating process? Scientists remain baffled. We guess some crustaceans just want to see the world burn.
2) Leocochloridium Paradoxum
“I believe I can fly" warbled Robert Sylvester Kelly in a song about a cartoon rabbit who plays basketball. Or something. But R Kelly isn’t the only one to hold such lofty aviation-based ambitions. There’s also Icarus, The Montgolfier Brothers, and those cheeky Wright boys. Add to that list, Leocochloridium Paradoxum.
Now, any of the animals in this awful, awful zoo can be presumed to be right stinkers. However, one that starts its life in a pile of shit, just like Leocochloridium Paradoxum (or LP as it will be referred to from now on) can fairly be thought of as a real wrongun.
Indeed, the baby LPs start their life in a pile of bird poo, but that’s just the start of it. LP sit, waiting for a snail to come along and, like snails do, suck up both the poo and the bacteria. Once inside the snail, LP grows, and works its nasty little way up to the snails head.
Once there, it forces its way to the snail’s eye-stalks stretching and deforming them so the look more like caterpillars than snail eyes. LP then attacks the snail’s brain, forcing it to move into the open, where birds can see it.
The hungry birds, thinking they’ve spotted some fat, juicy caterpillars, then swoop down and eat the disguised eye-stalks. And with this vile series of events, our shit-born creature achieves flight.
Once inside the host bird, LP continues to grow, and reproduce. The parasite then spawns offspring, which the bird then defecates out, and the entire sorry process begins once again.
1) The Emerald Jewel Wasp
Did you ever think you’d feel sorry for a cockroach? The weird, light-averse creature that can survive decapitation and, apparently, a nuclear war? No, us neither. But brace yourself for some unexpected sympathy.
The larvae of the Emerald Jewel Wasp love nothing more than the flesh of the cockroach, but there’s a problem. Cockroaches are aggressive, and around three times larger than a fully grown Emerald Jewel Wasp, let alone its freshly hatched eggs. Alas, evolution has more than equalled things up, and in the most hideous way.
When ready to lay her eggs, a female Emerald Jewel Wasp will use its long stinger to paralyse the top half of a cockroach. With the prone cockroach temporarily unable to fight back, the wasp gets closer and, like an evil brain surgeon, inserts a second stinger into a very specific part of the cockroach's brain.
This second cranial injection blocks the neurotransmitters in the cockroach's brain that activates its flight or flight reflex. The cockroach remains alive, but completely at the mercy of the Emerald Jewel Wasp.
The female wasp then, in complete control of the much larger cockroach, marches it back to her burrow. Once there, she’ll lay her eggs on the cockroach, before biting off its antennae so she can give herself a boost by drinking its blood.
After a few days, the eggs hatch on the cockroach. They then slowly eat their way through its still living flesh, chomping the internal organs in an order that will ensure the cockroach stays alive for as long as possible. When the cockroach can give no more and dies, the new batch of Emerald Jewel Wasps fly off, and find a partner to mate with, and it all begins again. Why they don’t just use Tinder is nobody's business.