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"QUANTUM SHOT" #394(rev)
Link - article by M. Christian and Avi Abrams

Real terror lurks in quiet darkness

The deadliest (and easiest to miss) critters lurk in dark silence, ready to strike with either the barest of warnings or none at all - and with absolutely fatal venom.

Some you've heard about, and so sit there and scoff. Yeah, big deal: rattlesnake, cobra, black widow -- either you can hear them coming, avoid going to India, or simply not stick your hands into dark places. They are nothing but annoyances: fatal only to the truly stupid, or very sick... But there are others, nasty little things as vicious and deadly as they are quiet and unassuming.

(this is Guineafowl Pufferfish (Arothron meleagris), via; top image credit: Shutterstock, via)

1. The Cone Snail: can kill you in less than 4 minutes

Say, for instance, you are happily walking through the low surf merrily picking up and discarding shells, looking for just the right one to decorate your desk back at the office.

With no warning at all, however, you feel a sharp sting from one of those pretty shells -- a sting that quickly flares into a crawling agony. With that quick sting, the cone snail's barbed spear has insidiously injected you with one of the most potent neurotoxins in existence.

(images credit: Richard Ling, Kerry Matz)

"The bright colors and patterns of cone snails are attractive to the eye, and therefore people sometimes pick up the live animals and hold them in their hand for a while." Meanwhile the snail may fire its harpoon, loaded with venom (the harpoon can penetrate gloves and even wetsuits)

Nerves short-circuited by this infinitesimally small amount of juice, in seconds the agony of where the stinger struck has faded into a heavy numbness. A relief, perhaps, but then it spreads and moments later the paralysis has seized the entire limb. Then the breathing troubles start ... and then, simply, your heart stops beating.

Yes, there are antivenoms available, but, frankly, with something that can kill in less than four minutes you'd have to carry it in your back pocket to survive. It wasn't just for their fondness for these pretty shells that lead the CIA to develop a weapon using this venom to dispatch enemies.

We'll be back to the ocean in a few paragraphs, but for the next dangerous denizen we have to visit the steaming Amazon:

2. Poison Arrow Frog: Lethal Touch

That frog over there, for instance: that tiny, brilliantly colored tree frog. Doesn't he look like some kind of Faberge ornament, there against that vermilion leaf? Wouldn't such a natural jewel look just gorgeous in a terrarium back home?

(images credit: Manuel; on the right is the similarly-colored Haliconia Bush)

(image credit: Edward Noble)

Pick him and you'll be dead in a matter of minutes. One second frolicking in the undergrowth, the next spasming and foaming on the jungle floor. No stinger, no bite, no venom: just the shimmering slime covering his brilliant body.

The natives in these parts capture these poison arrow frogs (carefully) and coat their blowgun darts with that slime and knock full grown monkeys out of the trees with a single strike. (read about other poisonous frogs here).

(left image credit: Adrian Pingstone)

"They are the only animal in the world known to be able to kill a human by touch alone." They can jump as far as 2 meters - "that's nearly 50 times their body length. That is like a 6-foot (1.8-meter) human jumping 300 feet (90 meters)" (source)

3. The lazy clown of the insect world.

Not a long distance from the deep green of the Amazon is southern Brazil. if you are a tired hiker after a good trek you'd want to rest a bit, to brace yourself against a tree for support. So what if you happen to touch a certain hairy caterpillar. It’s just a caterpillar, right? The lazy clown of the insect world. One problem, though: it happens to be a member of the lonomia family of moths.

(images credit: Anuska Nardelli, Diego Gonçalves)

The adult moth is just a moth, but the hairs of the caterpillar are juicy with nasty stuff, so nasty that dozens of people die every year from just touching them. By the way, it’s not a good way to go, either: their venom is a extremely powerful anticoagulant, death happening as the blood itself breaks down. Not fun. Very not fun.

(image credit: Ronai Rocha)

Many powerful predators are loud, almost comical: they parade their danger; sharks announce their presence with a steady da-dum, da-dum, da-dum of background music; rattlesnakes... well, they rattle; lions, and tigers, and bears roar and bellow...

But the real monsters are more devious than that; they lurk on the other side of invisibility, never make a sound, and kill you faster than the sounding of that first note in a shark's theme song.

4. Beaked Sea Snake

Another creature of nightmares that doesn’t come with a theme song is a strange import to the aquatic world. When you think snake you usually think of dry land. But if you go paddling around the Persian Gulf (or coastal islands of India) keep a wary eye out for the gently undulating wave of Enhydrina Schistosa.

(images credit: Insatiable Dreams, Kozy & Dan Kitchens)

It might not look dangerous, if anything it just looks odd to see a snake swimming in the sea, but don’t let your fascination for a "creature of the dry that lives in the wet" hypnotize you into getting too close.

The Hook-nose (or beaked) sea snake, to use its less scientific name, has one of the most potent venoms known. How potent? Well, visualize 1.5 milligrams. Not easy, is it? Such a small amount. But that’s all the venom enhydrina needs to, well, leave you "swimming with the fishes", as the mob likes to say.

"The snake is also eaten as meat by Hong Kong and Singapore fishermen and locals alike". Yum.

5. Stone Fish waits for you to step on it

But it’s not time to leave the sea quite yet. There are two nasty things in the blue depths you should spend many a sleepless night frightened of. For the big one you’ll have to wait a bit, for the one right below it in terrifying lethality you just have to watch your step when you’re walking along the bottom of the ocean.

As you can see it's very hard to notice on the ocean floor:

(images credit: Jake Adams, Alan Slater)

Like all monsters it hides, camouflaging itself among the rocks on the bottom. It’s what’s called an ambush predator: a critter that waits until something juicy walks, or swims, by. But what it could do to you requires no motion at all.

All the stone fish has to do is just sit there on the bottom and wait for you to innocently step on it.

That’s all it takes: the spines on the fish’s back are like a parade of loaded hypodermic needles, each one carrying enough bad stuff to kill even a buff diver in a matter of minutes. But death is not really the worst.

The pain from a stone fish’s sting is said to be so horrible that sufferers have begged to have the pricked limb amputate rather than live with it for another moment.
In a word: Ouch!.

(image credit: Letho)

6. Box Jellyfish should really be called the "coffin" jellyfish

Cone shells, snakes, and caterpillars can be avoided, brilliant frogs warn of their fatality, and I’ve already warned you about the stone fish, but this last terror does not roar or display its danger at all. Let's take one final swim, shall we, this time off the coast of Australia?

Paddling in the crystal sea, enjoying the cool waters, the warm sun, it's easy to miss this monster, especially as it's almost as clear as the ocean. Chironex Fleckeri doesn't sound terrifying, does it?

(images credit: Ernst Haeckel, Zoltan Takacs)

Chironex fleckeri is a tiny jellyfish, only about sixteen inches long. It has four eye-clusters with twenty-four eyes; its tentacles carry thousands of nematocysts, microscopic stingers activated not by ill-will but by a simple brush against shell, or skin. Do this and they fire, injecting anyone and anything with the most powerful neurotoxin known.

- Broken tentacles remain active until broken down by time and even dried tentacles can be reactivated if wet;
- Box jellyfish are not actually jellyfish at all; they are the Cubozoans;
- Grows to about the size of a human head, and has tentacles up to three meters long;

(image credit: Michael Reeve, reefed)

As you can see on the top left of the image above, it's pretty hard to notice Chironex Fleckeri in the wild!

The sting of a Chironex Fleckeri, also called the sea wasp, has been described by experts as horrifying torment:

Stories abound of swimmers leaping from the cool Australian seas, skin blistered and torn from thousands of these tiny stingers, the venom scalding their bodies and plunging them into agonizing shock.

Luckily it doesn't last long... In fact, the burning pain is over in just about the time it will take you to read this last paragraph (and you don't have to be a phenomenally slow reader), not even enough time to reach shore and call for help.

And as the venom works itself into your system, causing your nervous system to collapse, you'll realize that there really are dangerous things out there that'll kill you by pure reflex, by just crossing their paths - things that are perhaps the easiest to miss.

Article by M. Christian and Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot another Australian jellyfish that is even more dangerous than a chironex. That would be the Irukandji.


Blogger alanocu said...

Fantastic post! Excellent writing - nearly scared me to death!

Blogger Willy Wankar said...

hey "swimming with the fishes" doesn't sound too bad, but how about "sleeping with the fishes" ;)

Anonymous apotheosis said...

hey anonymous, that wikipedia link doesn't make the irukandji sound particularly dangerous.

Irukandji syndrome is produced by a very small amount of venom and includes severe pains at various parts of the body (typically excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, and a burning sensation of the skin and face), headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, high heart rate and blood pressure.

Certainly not pleasant, but not exactly in the same league as "dead in 30 seconds."

Blogger Holy Cuteness said...

Wow, those frogs have fantastic colours!

Anonymous AC said...

Long time reader - first time commenter. One of the best articles that I've read here. Crisp writing and some very good snaps.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Irukandji is a nasty little bugger. wikipedia doesn't make it sound like much but the discovery channel did. there was a show where these two researchers were trying to capture one and they got stung. the guy suffered immense pain for two days. his colleague for 2 weeks.

so "severe pains at various parts of the body (typically excruciating muscle cramps in the arms and legs, severe pain in the back and kidneys, and a burning sensation of the skin and face), headaches, nausea, restlessness, sweating, vomiting, high heart rate and blood pressure."

may not sound like much but you might wish you were dead after the 3rd day. in fact the guy mentioned some other jellyfish he wished he was working with "with [somthing] the pain goes away in 30 minutes or you die" then he alluded to doing research on elephants instead. because their big and dont sting :)

needles to say next time the went Irukandji hunting they were wearing full protection.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The non-plus-ultra is "Clostridium botulinum" - a small bacterium producing a really insane poison called botulin toxin (also known as botox...) during the cell division.
Between 50pg/kg and 3ng/kg are needed to kill someone (!!). In my opinion, THAT is impressive.

Blogger kozmcrae said...

Each cone snail has about 100 different variations of its venom. There is no antivenom to its sting. Several victims have survived though with immediate and constant pressure on the wound site and then mechanical ventilation. The risks of getting snuffed by one of these creatures is exceedingly small. Small as they are they can still be made non-existent, which is just what I'm will be doing by never going to their habitat.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"to use it’s less scientific name,"

Oh please. Learn to spell simple pronouns.

Blogger M.Christian said...

Lesson one: don't go swimming (period). Lesson two: don't turn an article in without having your copy editor look at it first (sigh). Of course it's supposed to be "its."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

even though the box jellyfish is deadly there is another jellyfish that is deadlier. it is called the Irukandji and can kill a man in 3 minutes.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about the blue-ringed octopus? It's pretty dangerous too. From Wikipedia:

"The blue-ringed octopus is the size of a golf ball, but its venom is powerful enough to kill humans. There is no known antidote."

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going to lock myself at home and never go out again

Blogger R2K said...

These are all scary creatures, but they seldom kill that many people (a few dozen here or there). How about the most deadly animal of all? It is pretty small.

Anonymous RogueWave said...

Great writing but fatalities from many of these are very rare. Some are easily defended against also. Thin fabric like panty hose or a thin lycra jelly-suit are enough to defend against nematocysts firing, or look into Safe-Sea Sunscreens, that can also protect you. You'll find bottles of vinegar lining Aussie beaches and lifeguard stations, which is sufficient in most cases.

I think I'm just rationalizing myself back into the water for this year's diving season. :(


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The frogs can jump up to 2 inches? That's not very scary.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is just FUD. It scares Yankee tourists away from coming to Australia. I can't remember the last time any of these critters actually managed to kill someone.

And for some reason the funnelweb spider, the salt water croc and the great white shark are left off the list. These do kill people. The crocs usually get some drunken swimmer every year. And because of the murky water - you don't see them coming.

But far more deadly - especially in usa - people with cars, guns and/or alcohol. And for a nice slow death - you can't go past cigarettes and high calorie fast food.

Blogger David Alexander McDonald said...

Forget the critters -- something like MRSA can be much, much worse, often fatal, always messy, and easy to pick up these days. Variations such as pneumonic MRSA are terrifying....

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Australia is home to loads of poisonous things. However, the death rate there is extremely low (as in 1 or 2 every year). Due to their comprehensive knowledge of the poisons, and prompt medical attention. In the toxicology world, Chironex is generally thought of as more dangerous than the Irukanji - just because severe poisoning from the Irukanji is very rare. Blue ringed octopi are not always toxic, they absorb their toxin from prey/water. In general, CPR will save a person bitten by a B.R.O.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chuck Norris could kick the livin'shit right outta those critters without even dilating a nostril and then chop them up to eat in his salad...

Anonymous Elmark said...

I've worked with most of these animals before and they aren't all lethal. A stonefish will hurt an incredible amount if you step on it and you will probably wish you were dead but unless you get an infection in the wound I wouldn't chisel out a tombstone any time soon. The Stonefish venom is a type of toxin that will simply break down under high temperatures, so throw that foot in some hot water and you will be fine (very sore but fine).

Box jellyfish are in the same boat. If you get stung on the arm or leg you will be in mind numbing pain but you probably won't die. Get stung around the torso and you are in big trouble though. Stop the sting and remove the tentacles all you need to do is cover the area in vinegar (which is at most affected beaches) and do CPR if they happen to stop breathing. But the vast majority of stings are not that bad (I have been stung dozens of times).

All said and done though, if you follow the warnings and listen to what locals say you won't get hurt. It is rare to die from these things but if you insist on frolicking in the water in the middle of summer on a beach that has a closed sign on it don't be surprised if you end up having an extremely painful holiday experience.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you Elmark - most fascinating comment.

Anonymous USA #1 said...

"But far more deadly - especially in usa - people with cars, guns and/or alcohol. And for a nice slow death - you can't go past cigarettes and high calorie fast food."

Who ever wrote this is a douche nozzle

Blogger Obbop said...

"Oh please. Learn to spell simple pronouns."


"simple pronouns"

How's that?

Blogger Tabitha said...

I like how everyone is bitching about this persons post.

Complaining about spelling and such? Come ON get a frakkin life...

And hey, just because they dont cause MANY deaths, does not mean a person is safe from them. Just cause there is vinigar and lifeguards on the beaches, does not mean you wont die from it.

And what you dont know can kill you. Just because YOU know about these critters, does NOT mean everyone else knows. Most people ouside of Australia dont know that the Platypus is venomous.

I myself would rather have something like this posted, and be scared, than go hiking in the amazon and suddenly feel sick and find myself convulsing and dying and not even know why.

Blogger Fried.or.Scrambled said...

What's that frog in the Amazon that makes you hallucinate?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

fun article, reasonably well written, but as elmark's already hinted a trifle sensationalist.

eg, sea snakes do possess a dreadful venom, but their fangs are located at the back of their mouths, so it's very difficult for them to get a grip on humans sufficiently to deliver a fatal dose. the webs between your fingers and toes, or your earlobes, are about the only place they can do it. they're not particularly aggressive critters, either.

Blogger DaviMack said...

Hmm... wondering about the people who were nasty about pronouns but didn't notice the following:

"...as viscous and deadly as they are quiet and unassuming..." - should be "vicious," unless you're referring to their ability to run in your car's engine; and "...knock full grown monkey's out of the trees..." should be "monkeys" without the apostrophe.

Other than those (and I'm just a wee bit picky when it comes to language), a fine article. Thanks!

To Anonymous: no need to be nasty, not everybody's a pedant!

Anonymous matt said...

hi, that was some really AWESOME writing! i read it twice because it was so good. have you considered writing a book?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article! Meanwhile the snail may fire it's harpoon, loaded with venom.

Blogger Paul said...

"What's that frog in the Amazon that makes you hallucinate?"

Ahh yes, that would be the Marijuana Frog

Anonymous Krazd said...

Makes me even more scared of what lurks in the sea...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great article. But the mob says, "sleeping with the fishes", not "swimming with the fishes".

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the Irukandji is not more dangerous than the box jellyfish. They only sting fom the tip of their tentacle, as opposed to the whole length... and it causes Irukandji syndrome, which is seldom lethal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irukandji_syndrome

But thanks for showing that you know another type of dangerous jellyfish. You just don't need to pretend it's more dangerous for attention.

Blogger kdc383 said...

DaviMack you need to look up the definition of the word viscous, before you post. The word doesn't necessarily have a thing to do with car engines.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cone snail might not be so dangerous

from wikipedia:
Live cone shells should not be handled, as they are capable of "stinging" humans with unpleasant results. The sting of a few of the larger species of tropical cone snails can be fatal to a human being.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice to see a well written article for once

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You forgot to tell that kill people by touch but only when you have a wound. The poison can't travel through your skin so it needs access to your blood by a wound

Blogger stef said...

every diver knows sea snakes are very poisonous but i dont think there are many documented cases, if any, of people getting stung by them. you'd have to catch one and stuff it in your wetsuit for it to get that far

Anonymous oldskewlcool said...

(1.) The cone snail is not NEARLY as deadly as you would portray. Only a couple of the larger species are actually deadly to humans and again, only the largest of these would approximate the effects you describe

(2.) There is no such thing as antivenom. It is called antivenin.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To all the grammar Nazis:

English is one of the most overly complex and derivative languages in the world. Why you would ever care about the proper use of such a paradoxical language is beyond my ability to comprehend. Being able to properly spell even half of the words in the English language should merit you a gold medal.

I'd also like to mention the fact that "Oh please." is not a complete sentence.

Anonymous Dr Phil said...

@ paul

marijuana does not make you hallucinate in any way, nice try.

Blogger sneJ said...

Overwrought sensationalism; sounds like a National Enquirer article or the voice-over from a cheesy TV documentary.

I liked the casual self-contradiction of "They are the only animal in the world known to be able to kill a human by touch alone." ...followed by the very next paragraph describing how touching a different animal (a caterpillar) will also kill you.

All of this hype gets people worked up about remote possibilities of death from exotic animals. How many people worldwide are killed by all the animals in this list put together? Maybe a few dozen a year.

The real easy-to-miss killers are more mundane. I'd put mosquitoes high up on the list, since the diseases they spread (malaria, typhoid, sleeping sickness, and many more) kill millions of people a year.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have the photo credit for Jake Adams link to his site www.coralidea.com . Good site

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Done, thank you for the note

Anonymous HongGi said...

that was crazy.. thanks for that. i'm a bio major so i really enjoyed it!

Blogger Dani "el sucio" said...

Amazing... i've just twitted it :P

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The top-most picture (labeled original unknown) is called "Jungle River" by Frans Lanting.

Excellent article by the way!


Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Thank you, the info is added to the image


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