The Flying Blue Ringed Octopus.

The Scariest Animals Still on Earth Today

Rarely does a day go by that I even consider the risk of being run down by a cape buffalo. Actually, there’s never been a day. But if you ever find yourself in sub-Saharan Africa, you’ll know to keep an eye open for those guys.

Besides the huge aggressors, there are all sorts of scary animals and insects roaming our planet. From the creatures that look like they came from our nightmares to the bright colorful creatures capable of killing dozens with a single hit from their toxic venom, we’ve put together a list of the 15 scariest animals on earth today.

African or Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo
Photo Credit: Michael Potter11 Shutterstock

The African buffalo, commonly known as the cape buffalo, is a formidable creature weighing nearly a ton. Once widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, the species is now approaching near-threatened status.

Standing at an impressive height of five feet at the shoulder, its menacing look is deepened with imposing curved horns. The African buffalo is capable of launching a lion several feet into the air, showcasing their dominance in the animal kingdom.

Blue-Ringed Octopus 

Blue rings octopus. The most dangerous underwater octopus. Indian ocean. Indonesia. Asia
Photo Credit: elena_photo_soul Shutterstock

While all octopuses possess venom to some extent, the Blue-Ringed Octopus stands out for its potent toxins, capable of lethally affecting up to 26 individuals with a single bite. 

Inhabiting the Pacific Ocean, this vibrant-hued mollusk, measures just six inches in size and thrives among coral reefs and sandy patches in shallow tide pools. 

Its striking blue markings serve as a warning signal, typically appearing when the creature feels threatened. Caution is needed when encountering one – there’s no antidote to counteract its venomous bite.

Huntsman Spider

Deep focus of Huntsman spider resting on old tree bark
Photo Credit: iSKYDANCER Shutterstock

Sporting a leg span reaching up to 12 inches, the giant huntsman spider earns its reputation as one of the most fearsome arachnids worldwide. 

Not only are these creatures far too large for a typical spider, but they also exhibit remarkable speed. Unlike their web-spinning counterparts, giant huntsman spiders rely on their agility, bypassing the need for webs to hunt their prey. With lightning-fast movements and menacing pincers, they pursue a wide range of victims, from insects to possums, demonstrating their shocking predatory capabilities.

Black Mamba Snake

Black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) KwaZulu-Natal South Africa
Photo Credit: Cormac Price Shutterstock

Known as one of the most lethal snakes in the world, the black mamba boasts a menacing appearance to match its deadly reputation. 

With each bite, these snakes inject venom equivalent to 12 times the lethal dose for a human. Like the African buffalo, if you happen to be in sub-Saharan Africa, exercise extreme caution in the presence of the black mamba. Encountering this death-dealing serpent can prove fatal.

Gharial

Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus, stands out with a very long jaw
Photo Credit: Vladislav T. Jirousek Shutterstock

The gharial ranks among the lengthiest of all crocodile species. These prehistoric-looking creatures inhabit the rivers coursing through the plains of the northern Indian subcontinent. They exhibit a predominantly aquatic lifestyle, venturing onto land solely for basking in the sun and constructing nests. 

Unlike some crocodilian counterparts, gharials do not engage in chewing their prey; instead, they opt to swallow it whole.

Brown Coconut Crab

Coconut crab, an iconic animal of the Batanes islands in Philippines. The coconut crab is also known as the robber crab or palm thief.
Photo Credit: KYTan Shutterstock

Brown coconut Crabs are found across coastal forests spanning the Indo-Pacific region, ranging from African islands to the Eastern Pacific Ocean. 

These impressive crustaceans can reach lengths of up to three feet and possess an astonishing grip strength, enabling them to lift prey comparable in size to a 65-pound child. There are even rumors about this muscular crab suggesting their potential involvement in the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart.

Giant Amazonian Centipede

Amazonian giant centipede Scolopendra gigantea in terrarium
Photo Credit: skifbook Shutterstock

Scolopendra gigantea, commonly known as the giant Amazonian centipede, ranks among the largest centipede species globally, measuring approximately a foot in length. Native to northern South America, these carnivorous creatures prey upon a variety of animals, employing their venomous capabilities. 

Their diet includes scorpions, tarantulas, small lizards, snakes, frogs, birds, mice, and bats. To raise their fear factor there has been a documented incident of one Amazonian centipede attacking a four-year-old child in Venezuela, who later died from their injuries.

Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragon is on the ground. Interesting perspective. The low point shooting. Indonesia. Komodo National Park. An excellent illustration.
Photo Credit: GUDKOV ANDREY Shutterstock

Komodo dragons are confined to a handful of Indonesian islands, namely Rintja, Padar, Flores, and Komodo, as well as zoos around the world. Male dragons can grow up to 10 feet in length, weigh around 150 pounds, and consume nearly 80 percent of their body weight in a single feeding. 

While encounters with these reptiles are infrequent, if a Komodo dragon were to attack, its incredible bite strength could easily snap a person in two.

Black Dragonfish

Black dragonfish (Idiacanthus atlanticus)
Photo Credit: GM. Woodward, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Black dragonfish inhabit the depths of the ocean and belong to the category of bioluminescent fish. Females of this species are equipped with sharp, fang-like teeth and sport a long barbel hanging from their chin. The barbel serves as a light-producing lure, attracting prey with its photophores. These adult female dragonfish can grow to lengths of approximately 2 feet and bear a resemblance to eels. 

In contrast, the males are considerably less intimidating. They are smaller in size compared to females, lack teeth or a barbel, and typically have shorter lifespans, solely existing to fulfill their reproductive duties.

Fangtooth Fish

Anoplogaster cornuta
Photo Credit: Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Fangtooth fish are deepsea dwellers, characterized by their large head, sharp fangs, and armored scales. Their distinctive feature includes bottom fangs so elongated that the fish cannot fully close its mouth. However, these fangs conveniently fit into specialized pockets on the roof of the Fangtooth's mouth. 

Surviving in the extreme conditions of the deep sea poses challenges for finding food, but adult Fangtooth fish are adept and aggressive hunters. They typically ensnare prey by suction into their mouths, swallowing them whole with their powerful jaws. The imposing fangs effectively prevent prey, which usually comprises fish and shrimp, from escaping. 

Despite their intimidating appearance, these relatively diminutive fish, measuring about 7 inches in length, pose no threat to humans.

Tapeworms

The study of Tapeworm infection is caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae in laboratory.
Photo Credit: Rattiya Thongdumh Shutterstock

Tapeworms, also known as parasitic flatworms, live within the digestive tracts of their hosts. Sporting a peculiar appearance, these organisms feature hooks and suckers surrounding their head, helping to ensure their attachment to the intestinal wall. 

With a segmented body that can extend up to 20 feet in length, tapeworms have the potential to infect both animals and humans. Human infections often occur through the consumption of raw or undercooked meat from infected animals. Tapeworm larvae, upon infecting the digestive system, mature into adult tapeworms by absorbing nutrients from their host.

Goliath Bird-Eater Spider

Goliath birdeater (Theraphosa blondi) belongs to the tarantula family Theraphosidae. Found near the village Balbina, Amazon rainforest, Brasil
Photo Credit: juerginho Shutterstock

The Goliath bird-eater spider is one of the largest spiders in the world. Possessing commanding fangs, these tarantulas capture prey and inject venom. The venom, with its digestive properties, liquefies the internal organs of the prey, enabling the spider to consume its meal. 

Goliath bird-eater spiders typically prey upon small birds, snakes, lizards, and frogs. Despite their imposing appearance, these large, hairy spiders are known for their aggressiveness, readily attacking when feeling threatened. They can emit a loud hissing noise using the bristles on their legs as a defensive mechanism against potential threats. 

While Goliath spiders might inhabit your dreams and may bite humans if disturbed, their venom poses no lethal threat to humans.

Hippopotamus 

The common hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius) or hippo at sunset with open jaws. The mighty hippo threatens everyone around him with an open mouth.
Photo Credit: Karel Bartik Shutterstock

Despite their appearance as giant, lumbering creatures, hippos are widely regarded as Africa's most perilous mammal. Territorial and unpredictable, they are armed with giant teeth capable of inflicting lethal damage. When their territory is encroached upon—whether by a crocodile, another hippo, or a boat full of tourists—they fiercely defend their space. 

During attacks, hippos defense comes from canine teeth that can reach nearly 2 feet in length, exerting pressure of up to 2000 pounds per square inch, surpassing the biting force of a lion. 

Adding to their fearsome reputation, hippos exude a red liquid resembling blood when they sweat, cementing their status as one of the most fearsome animals on the planet.

Box Jellyfish

The Sea Wasp - Immortal Jellyfish
Photo Credit: Fon Duangkamon Shutterstock

Often found drifting or moving very slowly through Indo-Pacific waters, these transparent, nearly invisible invertebrates are classified by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as the most venomous marine animal. 

Their cube-shaped bodies house up to 15 tentacles, each capable of reaching lengths of up to 10 feet. Lining these tendrils are thousands of stinging cells called nematocysts, containing toxins that simultaneously affect the heart, nervous system, and skin cells. 

Despite the existence of antivenoms, the venom's potency is such that many human victims succumb to shock, drowning, or heart failure before reaching shore. Those fortunate enough to reach the hospital and receive the antidote may still endure significant pain for weeks afterward and often bear enduring scars from the creature's tentacles.

Inland Taipan

Australian Highly venomous Inland Taipan
Photo Credit: Ken Griffiths Shutterstock

Let's start with the positive: Inland taipan snakes, known as dandarabilla by Aboriginal Australians, are generally reclusive and peaceful creatures, unlikely to exhibit aggression towards humans without provocation. 

However, when humans inadvertently surprise or attempt to handle them, inland taipans are well-prepared to defend themselves. Their venom is deemed the most potent of any snake worldwide, and they possess remarkable speed and accuracy when striking. Evolving specifically to prey on mammals, a single bite from an inland taipan can incapacitate the equivalent of 100 adults, inducing organ failure, convulsions, and paralysis leading to death. 

Unfortunately, the available anti-venom is tailored for the coastal cousin of the inland taipan, and obtaining it promptly in the snake's remote habitat is often improbable. While most victims of inland taipan bites are herpetologists and professional snake handlers, even laymen exploring the outback should remain vigilant.

Do These Animals Scare You?

A black widow spider on its web.
Image Credit: Deposit Photos.

We have more interesting and possibly scary animal facts for you!

 

Author: Todd Rowley

Title: Copywriter

Expertise: social services, transportation, mental health

Todd Rowley is a copywriter and content writer. He’s an unabashed introvert, an only child with a curious spirit, and a lover of the Oxford comma. Originally educated as a Child and Youth Worker - spending more than 25 years in the field - he also dabbled in Religious Education and Communications Studies.