Nature’s Scary Side You Rarely Get To See

When we think of nature, pictures of green forests, ice covered mountains, meadows filled with wildflowers, wild rivers, and idyllic lakes come to mind. We think of the wildlife with its brown eyed deer, owls, beautiful butterflies, and any of the other creatures we hold dear. What we never think of is nature’s scary side. Mainly, because it is something we don’t get to see very often. 

Nature actually holds a wide variety of creatures and plants that are quite shocking if you happen to come across one of them. Some of them look like they escaped from a horror movie about aliens from outer space. Others you won’t even know the danger, until it’s too late.

Aside from creatures and plants, nature also like to scare us with strange formations. One of which is called the Gateway to Hell for a good reason. Let’s take a look at some of the horrors out there.

Nature’s scary side likes to trick us

When nature created Bat flies (Nycteribiidae), it makes you believe Loki, the trickster, does exist. These flies don’t even resemble flies. As a matter of fact, they don’t have any wings, nor do they have eyes.

These wingless, blind “flies” are rather flat and look like a spider. Males and females both are blood suckers and prefer the blood of bats. Once they find a bat to live on, they rarely ever leave their hosts again.

nature's scary side - a bat with a batfly attached to its head

Fish with human teeth

This fish with the human smile is known commonly as Pacu. But Pacu is not a single species of fish, but rather the name for several omnivorous South American fresh water fish species related to piranhas. Unlike piranhas, though, the pacus mainly eat plant materials. Therefore they have no need for the razor sharp teeth of the fish and scales devouring piranhas.

So why are their teeth so human-like? That’s because Pacus use their teeth mainly to crush nuts and fruits that drop from trees into the waters of the Amazon.

Pacus can grow up to 4 feet long, so don’t go out to buy one.

nature's scary side - fish with human teeth

The Christmas ornament from hell

Golden feathered with a nasty bite. Nature’s scary side created the giant polynoid worm (Eulagisca gigantea) that looks like a beautiful tree ornament. You might get to see it if you go fishing in the southern ocean, because that’s where this marine worm lives.

This worm is a carnivore and the size of its jaw shows that it is also a predator. So, it might not be something you would want to hang on your tree. Unless you want to scare the children.

When it comes to cute looking creatures, there are also some dangerous caterpillars you should stay away from. Unlike these creatures here, they are very common and you should get familiar with them.

nature's scary side - left side body, right side head and mouth

Fine dinner with extra protein?

There is obviously a food chain in nature, which is truly scary for the prey. Every now and then, nature’s scary side shows up on your dinner plate. Who’s on top of this food chain? Poor mussel didn’t even get to finish eating the crab, before becoming someone else’s dinner.

nature's scary side a mussel with a crab inside on a dinner plate.

Gateway to hell

What looks like a gateway to hell surrounded by souls is actually the West Kamoku Na lava flow skylight in Hawaii. The lava flow skylight are openings in the roof above a lava tube where the flowing lava is visible.

nature's scary side photo of black lava resembling souls around a big, red lava hole.

Hawaii is not the only place where lava flow skylights appear. Throughout history, myths have told us about these “gates” to hell or the afterlife. Ancient Greece, Rome, China and Japan tell us stories of legendary heroes traveling through such gates to perform heroic acts in the places of the afterlife.

It is not surprising that the skylights are mistaken for such “gates.” The cooled lava flow takes on strange forms, and often it resembles tortured souls being sucked down into the fiery place.

Let’s take a look at the video. It quickly tells us the scientific version as of how these “gates” come to be.

Organ transplant

The tongue-eating louse (Cymothoa exigua) is the only parasite that is known to functionally replace a hosts organ. The parasite severs the blood vessels in the fish’s tongue, which causes the tongue to fall off. It then attaches itself to the stub of the tongue and becomes the fish’s new tongue.

The fish are able to use the parasites as a tongue, but end up becoming underweight. After all, now they have more mouths to feed. And once the parasite dies, so does the fish. Because now it can’t swallow its food anymore.

nature's scary side shows parasite replaced the tongue of a fish

The warm and edible nest

Snowy owls are the best of bird parents because, unlike many other birds, the mothers do everything in their power to ensure the survival of all their owlets. Not just the strongest ones.

This mother went above and beyond to keep her owlets not only warm, but also well fed. She killed more than 70 lemmings and made a nest from their carcasses.

nature's scary side shows owl's nest lined with lemmings and baby owls sleeping in the center.

Nature’s scary side presents us with the deadliest tree

The Manchineel tree fully deserves its more common names of  la manzanilla de la muerte and arbol de la muerte. Which translate to “the little apple of death” and “tree of death”.

It’s not just that every part of it is poisonous. Oh, no. Nature’s scary side created a tree, so deadly, that officials have to post warning signs on the trees. What makes it so scary? Hmm, let’s see.

Like it’s not enough that the little green apple-look-alike fruit tastes edible and sweet, just to turn around and make you sicker than a dog. You can’t even stay close to it for any length of time without it trying to kill you. And for sure, don’t try and touch it or its sap. When you come across one anywhere in the Caribbean, Central and South America, or even Florida, don’t go anywhere near it. Any part of it can be lethal. Even touching a fallen leaf off the ground.

Rumor has it that the famed explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon was killed by it. It is said that aboriginal peoples of the Caribbean, who used the sap to tip their arrows, killed him with such an arrow on his second trip to Florida in 1521.

The Caribbeans are also known to have used the leaves to poison the water supply of their enemies.

Nature's scary side shows large tree with several warning signs nailed to its trunk.

Don’t even take a bite

Radiologist Nicola Strickland wrote in a letter a letter to the British Medical Journey, “I rashly took a bite from this fruit and found it pleasantly sweet. My friend also partook (at my suggestion). Moments later we noticed a strange peppery feeling in our mouths, which gradually progressed to a burning, tearing sensation and tightness of the throat. The symptoms worsened over a couple of hours until we could barely swallow solid food because of the excruciating pain and the feeling of a huge obstructing pharyngeal lump. Sadly, the pain was exacerbated by most alcoholic beverages, although mildly appeased by pina coladas, but more so by milk alone.

Over the next eight hours our oral symptoms slowly began to subside, but our cervical lymph nodes became very tender and easily palpable. Recounting our experience to the locals elicited frank horror and incredulity, such was the fruit’s poisonous reputation.”

They are lucky that they only took a bite, because eating of the whole fruit can be fatal.

Do not touch

Similar to the world’s deadliest fungus, this tree comes with a “Do Not Touch” warning. While the fungus’ toxins are absorbed through the skin, the tree’s toxins are in its sticky sap.

The sap is everywhere, including in the bark and leaves. It looks milky-white and will burn your skin. If you get any of it into your eyes, you’ll turn blind. Though, the blindness might only be temporary, damage to the large corneal epithelial is highly possible.

Don’t go near it

Stay far enough away from it so you can’t even smell it. The aroma alone will affect your mucous membranes and eyelids. If you stand under the tree during the rain, it will rain the sap on you. If you burn the tree, the smoke can kill you or at least cause damage to your eyes.

Despite its toxins, the wood of these trees is largely used by Caribbean carpenters. First they need to burn the bottom of the trunk, next cut it, and then leave it to dry in the sun until all the sap is gone.

Obviously, Nature’s scary side can be a way of protecting plants and animals by supplying them with toxins. In this case it was desperately needed. In spite of all that self-defense, this species is only common in a few areas. It’s rarity landed it on the list of highly endangered species.

Mummy comes back to life

These pictures show mother nature’s scary side of life and death. The frog looks all dried up and appears lifeless. Then the guy splashes water on it, and in a short while the frog recovers and hops away.

Frogs can get dehydrated when their water source dries up. They get all their water and part of the oxygen they need through their skin. But only if their skin stays moist.  If there is no water, they will dry up and die.

So, unless the frog is already decomposing, you can actually revive it by getting its skin wet. There are also frogs in cold regions that will completely freeze. Heart stops and everything. Then, as the snow and ice begin to melt with warmer temperatures, the frogs thaw out, hearts start pumping again, and the frogs go on with their lives.

Nature's scary side shows dried up frog on left. On the right water is poured and frog comes back to life.

The dragon skull

On the left you see the Dragon flower (Antirrhinum). It is a popular garden plant with flowers that resemble the heads of dragons. When you squeeze the “dragons” they open and close their mouths. But once they dry, it really becomes macabre. You can see why in the picture on the right.

The flowers have died and what is left are the seed pods, or the dragon skulls.

Nature's scary side flower on the left, dried shows skulls

Devil’s fingers

Devil’s fingers or octopus stinkhorn (Clathrus archeri) is actually a fungus. It starts out as an egg stage, a ball or egg that is partly buried. When it erupts, large red arms emerge and spread out. The arms are coated with stinky gleba which attracts insects, which in turn distribute the spores.

Although it is a native to New Zealand and Australia, people are reporting findings in other parts of the world as well. Unlike other plants and fungi that just come growing out of the ground, this one grows inside a leathery egg sack. When it matures, it uses its tentacles to break the sack open. Is part of nature’s scary side meant to scare us? Well done, nature. Well done.

nature's scary side shows the fungi in its three stages

Nature’s scary side preserved the living fossil

The frilled shark (Chlamydoselachus anguineus) looks like something from prehistoric time. It is seen so rarely by humans that it makes headlines every time one is found.

Scientists say that fossil records show this species to be 95 million years old. Some others believe that it is closely related to sharks that lived even longer before that. Something like 300 million years ago. Whatever… who’s counting!? It’s still one of the oldest species around today. So how did it remain unchanged in this ever-changing world?

Species evolve over such a long period of time, in order to adapt to their surroundings. You might also like to read about rare genetic mutations to get a better understanding about this process.

This species managed to adapt to live in the deepest parts of the oceans. There, it just doesn’t have as much competition as the sharks living closer to the surface. It doesn’t have the need to evolve into anything different than it has always been. At least for now. Who knows what the future holds.

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Bleeding Tooth Fungus (Hydnellum Peckii)

Nature’s thoughts must’ve been with vampires when it came to the creation of this fungus. It is not toxic, but not edible either. And indeed, it looks like a bleeding tooth sticking out of the ground, barely visible because it’s embedded with other plants and debris. It’s no surprise that people also call the a “Devils’ Tooth” by just looking at it. Maybe nature’s scary side wanted it to resemble a Vampire’s tooth?

When the fungus is young it “bleeds” this red sap out of its white cap. It stops bleeding when the fungus gets old. So, why is the poor thing bleeding?

The red sap is pushed out by high root pressure. No, not blood pressure. Although, the similarity is kind of stunning. Instead of oxygen and all that other good stuff our blood transports, this red fluid is in charge of transporting the spores. With age, just like with us, the reproduction slows down. As the pressure gets lower fewer droplets appear and eventually it stops completely. The fungus shrivels up and turns brown.

nature's scary side

Brain Cactus (Mammillaria Elongata Cristata)

Oh, look. Someone lost their brain. Seeing things like this surely makes you wonder “what on Earth was nature thinking?” It might be nature’s sense of humor to fool us with this brainless plant.

This cactus is all brains when it comes to appearance. It is native to Mexico and likes to grow between rocky outcrops. In the spring, it will even grow flowers out of its brain.

nature's scary side

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