A predator is an animal that survives by killing others, and an apex predator is a predator at the top of a food chain, with no natural predators. Based on those definitions, humans are the world’s most dangerous and successful of all species, but we’re not the only ones. We share the planet with other predators who’ve filled every ecological niche available – the following 10 being the deadliest predatory animals.
10. Komodo Dragon
Also called the Komodo Monitor, these magnificent creatures are found on several Indonesian islands. They’re the biggest lizards in the world – able to grow up to 3 meters or 10 feet in length and weigh as much as 150 lbs or 70 kilograms.
Despite being able to see as far away as 980 feet, Komodos rely mostly on their tongues to sense prey as far as 5.9 miles away. Their favorite food is carrion, but they’ll attack pigs, goats, and even people if they’re hungry enough.
They can sprint up to 13 miles or 20 kilometers per hour to bite victims but they don’t feast on them straight away.
Though it has been claimed that their saliva contains a variety of highly septic bacteria that would help to bring down prey, a study in 2013 refuted this idea, stating they have relatively good mouth hygiene compared to other carnivores. The idea that prey die of sepsis may be because after water buffaloes are attacked, who they run into warm feces-filled water which would then cause infections.
But what Komodo Dragons do have is a venom gland in the back of their lower jaw with ducts leading to openings between their teeth.
The venom they inject upon biting will mainly lower their prey’s blood pressure and interfere with coagulation. So all they’ll do is letting their prey go, then tracking them till they die.
But sometimes they don’t have to wait, because they’re powerful beasts. There are instances of them knocking down small deer and pigs with their strong tails before pinning them to the ground with their massive claws as they munch away.
9. Polar Bears
While grizzly bears are famous throughout North America, they pale in comparison to Polar Bears. Grizzlies have evolved into different species, the biggest standing as high as 6 and a half feet and weighing up to 790 lbs. Most are shy so your chances of surviving one are pretty high.
© Flickr/marneejill (Grizzly Bear)
Polar bears, on the other hand, evolved in harsher climates so they’re more aggressive apex predators. They’re the largest land carnivore of all, so you’d be lucky to survive an attack from one. Males can grow up to 12 feet tall and weigh up to 2200 lbs. Just look at how puny a human looks compared to one of this size!
They’ll eat anything within reach – including humans – but their favorite prey are seals which they can smell up to 20 miles away… even if that seal is swimming in a hole in the ice. They then walk up to it, stay perfectly still while covering their black noses to blend with the snow, before pouncing.
With a bite force of 1,200 pounds per square inch, nothing can survive their bite. With so much muscle power behind them, they can kill most animals with a single swipe of their paw. You’d be lucky to survive the blunt force trauma, but if that doesn’t work they can always rip you apart with their 3 and a half-inch claws.
8. Gray Wolf
Also called the Timber Wolf, these predators are found throughout Eurasia and North America. They’re different from other wolf species because of their bigger size. Hated by farmers and ranchers for attacking livestock, what wolves lack in size and power, they more than makeup for in cunning.
These creatures are opportunists – testing prey for any weaknesses before attacking. Generally social animals, they work together to bring down prey far bigger than themselves.
And this is what makes them dangerous. Wolves have a hierarchy based on age, gender, size, and other factors that dictates what they do during a hunt – allowing them to work as a single unit.
In the wild, their favorite prey is rabbits and other small animals, but bigger packs will hunt deer, elk, caribou, moose, and even bison. When those are scarce, farm animals are the next best thing.
There are 60 eagle species in the world – all of them dangerous. One of their most amazing tools is their eyesight, estimated to be 4 to 8 times stronger than that of the average human, enabling them to spot a rabbit that is more than 3.2 kilometers away. But each eagle is specially adapted to their environment.
Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Africa have the Crowned Eagle – considered the continent’s most dangerous because it can take down animals bigger than itself.
Their favorite prey is the bushbuck – a type of antelope, but they’re not overly picky. These creatures kill by cracking skulls with their beaks or talons or suffocating prey with their claws. With a dive speed of 100 mph, few escape them.
Then there’s the Harpy Eagle – the lion of the eagle world for having the most powerful beak and claws. Found in Brazil, they have no natural enemies – feeding on sloths, monkeys, snakes, deer, lambs, and goats.
Harpy Eagles can pick up animals as heavy as 15 lbs. What they can’t carry, they slash to bite-sized pieces with their rear talons which measure at about 4 inches long, about the same size as grizzly bears.
6. Saltwater Crocodile
There are many types of crocodiles, but the Saltwater Croc is the largest of all with males growing up to 23 feet in length and weighing over 4,400 lbs. As their name suggests, they’re amphibians, but prefer saltwater in mangrove swamps, lagoons, and rivers throughout Southeast Asia and Australia, with smaller cousins in Africa.
They hunt by staying mostly underwater while keeping their eyes and nostrils on the surface to seek prey. At best, they’re completely invisible; at worst, they look like driftwood on water. Once they reach the shore, or their prey, they give a burst of speed and swallow small animals whole.
Bigger prey – including humans – are clamped down on by their sharp teeth before being rotated like a kebab on a skewer to tear chunks off with their deadly ‘death-roll’ maneuver. With the strongest bite force in the world, of 3,700 psi, nothing escapes those jaws, and bones are easily crushed.
For comparison, it takes humans 150 psi to bite into steak.
5. Great White Shark
They’re so named because they’re the biggest species of mackerel shark. It’s recently been discovered that they can live as long as 70 years – making them also the longest-lived cartilaginous fish known to date.
Great Whites are the ocean’s most feared predators, able to swim at speeds of over 35 mph and at depths of up to 3,900 feet. With a bite force of 1.8 tons, once they clamp down on their victim, there’s no letting go. With their double row of serrated teeth, they then jerk from side to side to tear out huge chunks from prey.
If you’re a seal, that’s really bad news, and you better be aware of their breaching behavior. They tend to approach from the depths at a high speed, launching themselves at surface-dwelling prey at over 25 miles per hour, reaching over 3 meters into the air. This powerful attack stuns prey and is so deadly that half the time the shark gets to eat afterward.
Lions used to thrive in Eurasia and North America, but are today only found in Africa and western India. You can tell the sexes apart because females are smaller and have no mane, but there’s another thing that sets them apart from their men – they do all the hunting.
Although males make formidable killers, they’re generally lousy hunters because of their mane – turns out it’s not great for the element of surprise. Plus, they tire easily, though they will hunt if they’re alone. They prefer to fight other males for dominance, and when they kill, it’s usually the young of defeated rivals.
Lone females prefer smaller animals, but males sometimes rush in to help with bigger prey. When they’re with a pack, they go after bigger prey like zebras, antelopes, and other predators like leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. Typically, The attack is short and powerful as they attempt to catch victims with a fast rush and final leap. Prey is usually killed by strangulation.
And while females bring in the meat, they don’t eat first. That honor goes to the males who’ll let their young eat second. If there’s any left, it goes to the females who either have to fight each other for the leftovers or go hunting again.
3. Praying Mantis
Okay, so you’re not going to be killed by this insect, but it deserves a spot for being one of the most effective ambush predators in the world, with probably the most lethal weapon in the insect kingdom.
With over 2000 species of praying mantis found around the world, they’re specially adapted for hunting in a variety of habitats. Firstly, they blend into their environment seamlessly. Ground-dwelling mantis’ tend to be spotted grey to blend in with rocks and soil whereas plant-dwellers are green, to camouflage with the foliage. This allows them to stalk up to the prey, like cats do, or wait for prey to come to them.
They can turn their head backward, and have large compound eyes, enabling them to track prey in any direction. Once within striking distance, they’ll snap forward their front limbs which are equipped with rows of sharp spikes. This happens in 1/20th of a second; twice as fast as you blink. They then start eating their prey, even whilst it’s still alive, with Mandibles that are strong and sharp enough to cut human flesh.
Though mostly preying on smaller insects, they can feast on prey 3 times their size. Birds, Mice, Frogs, Snakes, Lizards, and even soft-shelled turtles are in danger of this vicious insect.
It’s no wonder martial artists base their moves around this killer and why early civilizations considered them to have supernatural powers.
The largest among cat species, tigers are considered apex predators – the top of the food chain. They live in several Southeast Asian countries where people both admire and fear them – especially since they live near many heavily-populated areas.
While they’re formidable hunters on land with their sharp teeth and claws, they’re unusual among cats for their love of water and their ability to catch fish.
Tigers will eat any animal that crosses their path – including crocodiles and serpents for Sumatran tigers, and bigger prey like elephants and humans for the Indian breed. They’re able to leap up to 33 feet in a single bound and run up to 40 mph in short-bursts while biting with a force of 1,000 psi. And though not yet measured, their swipes are powerful enough to smash in a cow’s skull.
And to put their strength into perspective, in one case, after a tiger had been observed killing an adult gaur, it dragged the massive carcass over 40 feet into vegetative cover before eating it.
Then, When 13 men tried to drag the same carcass later, they couldn’t move it.
Now before revealing the most powerful apex predator in the world, here are some honorable mentions that are less obvious, but still almost made it.
They may be beautiful, but they’re the killing machines of the insect world. They’ll eat anything, including each other, as well as tadpoles and fish. They can’t stop eating, either – they’re able to consume as much as a fifth of their own body weight a day.
They also have the best vision of all. Most flying insects, like flies, have about 6,000 eye-facets, while dragonflies have around 30,000 which allows them to see invisible UV light, which is invisible to us. This means they can see in both darkness and light. What makes them especially deadly are their brains. Dragonflies don’t hunt prey – they predict where they will go with a 95% success rate.
By contrast, sharks have a 50% success rate, while lions stand at 25%.
Next up is the Inland Taipan
This is the most venomous snake in the world. Compared to this creature, cobras and vipers are nothing. Taipan’s favorite food is small warm-blooded mammals like rats, so its venom can kill our kind.
A single bite from this monster can kill at least 100 men, and if left untreated, death follows in 30 to 45 minutes. But they never bite just once. Taipans strike their victims as many as eight times in rapid succession, releasing their toxins each time in several spots to ensure their victims have no chance of recovery.
Fortunately for most of us, they only live in certain areas of eastern Australia. Unfortunately for east Australians, there are laws to protect them. Worse, it’s legal to own one so long as you have a license, which some do for reasons only Australians can understand, no doubt.
1. Killer Whale
Though considered cute, thanks to movies and ocean parks, killer whales are the apex predators of the sea with no natural predators, and they can be found everywhere except for the Baltic and Black Seas.
Incredibly intelligent and social, their favorite foods are fish, seals, and dolphins. However, they also attack whales and great white sharks. Despite their vast size, they’re among the fastest marine mammals – able to zoom through the water at speeds of 35 mph.
With good vision above and below the water, they also rely on echolocation to find prey. Like wolves, they have a hierarchy and hunt as a single unit. Unfortunately, males are like lions – they kill the young of rival males… sometimes with help from their mothers. With their powerful jaws that lock into place, even whales can’t dislodge them once they bite down.
And just like humans, their intelligence really sets them apart when it comes to hunting effectively. For instance, when hunting seals around the Antarctic ice shelf, they work together to create huge waves which knock seals off the ice and into the water.
And when prey thinks they’re safe on land, orcas have another strategy. They’ll lunge themselves onto the shore, grabbing prey like sea lion pups before pushing themselves back into the water. Luckily, they’ve never killed a human in the wild, except for hurting and killing their handlers at various ocean parks.
Do you agree with these picks of predatory animals? Do you have your own choice of predators to include? Let me know in the comments below.