We have made it our mission to celebrate the underrated badasses of the animal kingdom because in general, Hollywood has taught us to be afraid of the wrong creatures.
For instance, for every animal you’d be terrified to run across in the wild, the odds are there is at least one other beast who sees it as a tasty snack. And often it’s what you’d least expect. Like .
The Wasp That Eats Tarantulas
So you are a tarantula, the hairy giant of the arachnid world and the absolute worst nightmare of, oh, about 99 percent of humanity. You hunt in the trees and prowl the ground in a manner that leaves little doubt of your absolute, all-consuming terribleness.
As you roam the landscape looking for a late night snack, you spot a potential prey: a silly-looking insect buzzing clumsily around. Raising yourself in the attack position, you confidently prepare for a kill …
… only to wake up hours later, unable to move, and with a nasty writhing feeling inside you.
A wasp isn’t anyone’s favorite insect to find flying around in their house, but nobody is going to call 911 if they see one. And when it comes down to wasp vs. tarantula, you’d expect to see the former in the nest of the latter, getting slowly eaten.
But there is a spider wasp called the tarantula hawk that is the boogeyman that small spider children are scared of. To us humans, it looks surreal rather than scary — like something you’d find in Guillermo del Toro’s personal petting zoo.
Of course, there is a reason this kind of bug is called a spider wasp — its sole mission in life is to transform the world into a never-ending horror movie for its arachnid prey. In this case, the movie is Aliens. The tarantula gets to play the victim; the wasp is the face-hugger. The tarantula hawk will capture, sting and paralyze the tarantula. Then, much as the Alien would, it plants an egg inside the spider’s … ahem, abdomen. Like this:
And, to finish the circle of movie-referencing terror, after growing big and strong on a steady diet of the freaked-out spider’s internal organs, the baby tarantula hawk outgrows its home. Yes, this happens exactly as you would expect.
The Pink Dolphin That Eats Piranhas
You’re having a regular field day with your school of piranhas, munching on the legs of hapless river-crossing explorers, reducing whole cows to skeletons and generally enjoying your reputation as the most badass flesh-eating freshwater fish in existence.
Your day keeps getting better, as a new meal swims into sight. Frankly, the thing looks ridiculous — you vaguely recognize it as one of those “dolphin” things the bikini girls you had for supper had tattooed on their ankles. This one, however, is completely pink. Ha, that thing swam out of a cartoon!
Then it opens its mouth. Wait … shit … no! It’s not supposed to go this way. Mommy!
The Amazon river dolphin, known throughout local fight clubs by the punchier name of “boto,” is a freshwater dolphin that any My Little Pony fan would be proud to be reincarnated as. It possesses a brain 40 percent larger than a human’s and is rumored to be quite the devil with local ladies. Also, it’s pink. Really, really, really pink.
But while on the surface this pink Cadillac of Amazonia appears as harmless as it is adorable, it is a skilled hunter and possesses a particular taste for piranha flesh.
The boto’s uniquely flexible body and neck enables it to maneuver through the intricate labyrinth of branches and tree trunks beneath the Amazon. This is bad news for the piranhas, to the point where it has been suggested that they swim in schools not for shock value, as was previously thought, but out of fear of being eaten themselves.
But, as your piranha just found out, the huddling-together tactic proves futile against the Pink Assassins. They will eat the shit out of piranhas any which way they want. In an ultimate dick move, they even swim into large lakes when water levels drop to take advantage of their cornered prey in a feeding frenzy of sweet, fear-tinged piranha flesh.
The Bird That Eats Giant Hornets Like Popcorn
As a fearsome Asian giant hornet, you and your swarm of homeboys spend your days terrorizing Japan, bringing down animals hundreds of times your size and starring in YouTube videos where you happily massacre scores of really, really helpful insects. There is pretty much nothing in the world that can withstand the neurotoxins of your unnecessarily huge stinger. You are a ruthless, mindless part of the most dangerous hive in the world, incapable of fearing anything, as one would expect from a bug known by the nickname of “yak-killer hornet.”
You are, all in all, more untouchable than Eliot Ness and MC Hammer combined. You were once declared one of the five most horrifying bugs in the world.
Which makes it all the more shocking when a random bird comes along and starts munching on you and your friends like candy.
Pernis ptilorhynchus, aka the crested honey buzzard, is, well, a big bird. Common sense says that seems like pretty much the worst thing to be in a fight against a swarm of huge, overtly toxic hell-insects. The honey buzzard, however, disproves our puny logic by being the only natural predator to Asian giant hornets — and therefore pretty much the only thing keeping the entire ecosystem of Asia from collapsing into a dark, twisted realm ruled by the Hornet King.
It manages to hunt the little monsters by having certain natural advantages that come off like they were designed by Lucius Fox himself. The buzzard’s coat consists entirely of unique feathers that are capable of protecting it against wasp stings like the ornithological equivalent of the Batsuit.
While YouTube does sport its fair share of the giant hornets doing their thing, there’s also footage of a crested honey buzzard setting a trap, ambushing a whole hornet’s nest using detective mode and then eating their young while the hornets watch helplessly. Oh, and the best part …
Yes, much like Batman, this particular honey buzzard not only insulted these hornets to their faces by bringing the fight to their turf, but also as a parting salvo she actually destroyed their whole base of operations. Enjoy this photo of one absolutely not giving a shit:
The Whale That Stalks Great White Sharks
Let’s say you got to choose which animal you’d be reincarnated as this time. You want the one creature who absolutely is not going to get eaten. So, of course, you pick the earth’s most perfect hunting and eating machine: the freakin’ great white shark.
You are now 20 feet and 5,000 pounds of pure, distilled murder, immune to any harm as long as you remember to avoid ragtag trios from nearby coastal towns on shabby fishing boats named Orca.
Orca. That’s, like, Free Willy, right? What a funny name for a shark-hunting boat. Wondering why someone would decide to name their ship after some damn Disney whale, you’re lost in thought … when, suddenly, you notice a huge cavern of a mouth opening up riiight next to you.
What the great white sharks represent to mankind, Orcinus orca, better known as the super-shiny killer whale, is to great white sharks a hundredfold.
It’s not necessarily true that killer whales hunt great whites for food — scientists actually aren’t sure what the relationship is between the two species. What we know is that the whales are smart enough to have figured out that sharks need to move in order to breathe, so they hold the sharks upside down until they are immobilized, slowly suffocating, until they’re dead. After that, we truly enter serial killer territory.
Watch at your own peril:
Yes, that was a killer whale eating the shark’s liver, Hannibal Lecter-style. Interestingly, this particular case of organ theft was not even an isolated incident. In another instance, a great white approached two orcas while they were eating a seal. Not only did he end up having the shit kicked out of him, but also one of the orcas took the shark to the surface and, no shit, held the shark there while the other disemboweled it, feasting on its liver.
These killer whales were not even hunting for shark liver. This was simply a case of a great white being at the wrong place at the wrong time … unless, of course, the whales were just using the dead seal as bait.
Whatever the truth may be, such attacks do happen, and they have one hell of an effect on the local shark community. In two wholly separate instances off California, more than three years apart, documented cases of great whites being found liverless resulted in “the entire great white population — up to 100 individuals” escaping the orca threat in almost human-like panic within days.
In one case, a shark that the researchers were tracing had not only skipped town, but swam 2,280 miles to Hawaii. To put that in context, there is virtually no spot in the United States that is 2,280 miles away from the nearest coastline, which in shark terms would make Kansas too close to killer whales for their comfort.
The Cat That Eats Crocodiles
This time, you find yourself in the skin of a caiman, the Amazon equivalent of a crocodile and every bit as badass a predator as you’d expect from a modern day dinosaur. You lay on your favorite part of the river bank, lazily eyeing the waterline for something to deathroll and consume, when you notice a suitably out-of-place-looking large cat.
Had you been paying attention to previous entries, you’d probably know better than to attack — but since you’re a caiman, your reading comprehension leaves something to be desired. So you lunge.
You can probably guess by now how that goes for you.
The jaguar. The largest big cat in the Western Hemisphere and the third largest in the world. It has the strongest jaws of all cats; strong enough to crack open a turtle shell.
But while it could maybe take on a caiman on land, surely it gets its ass handed to it if the caiman gets in water? It’s a freaking cat.
Nope! Jaguars can and totally do attack caimans in the latter’s own element. Like this particular cat, who not only challenges its foe in 2-foot-deep water, but also wins by drowning the goddamn caiman. We didn’t know that was even possible!
But why would a big cat attack a caiman, when there’s plenty of easier prey around? Well, according to the Cold War-era narrator on that clip, it’s because “he doesn’t care about danger.” While we are in no position to disagree with this assessment, it is worth noting that there’s a sexy lady-jaguar watching the fight from the sidelines the whole time.
Now, consider that what looks an awful lot like the same cat took down an anaconda earlier in the same day, and make of that what you will.
The Badger-Eating Bird
So you’re a honey badger — a notoriously dirty and fearsome fighter that holds a Guinness World Record for its badassitude. An animal that, as we have pointed out before, could fill the Louvre with all the fucks it doesn’t give.
Having lived through these scenarios quite a few times, you know something is probably out to get you and technically you should get worried ’round about now. But you won’t, because this time you’re the goddamn honey badger. Let trouble come — you’ll just maul its balls to death like everything else, from cobras to leopards to pretty much everything on this list. Bring it, nature — you are ready.