It’s Halloween! To distract myself from the actual most frightening events this year (*cough cough voter suppression at the midterm elections cough*) I’ve compiled a list of five spooky creatures and their haunting habits! Enjoy.
1. The Bobbit Worm
A mix between a Coachella choker and the spawn of Satan, the bobbit worm is equal parts fabulous and terrifying.
It buries itself in sediment up to its neck, where it lies in wait for its prey.
The bobbit pictured on the left may look like it’s only a few inches — but it may be up to ten feet long under all that sand.
Then it launches itself with such speed and ferocity that it will often cut its victims in half with its scissor-like jaws!
If that wasn’t enough, it also ingests a toxin into its prey which allows it to be easily digested, even when much larger than itself.
You can consider the bobbit worm next time you take a swim in the ocean!
2. The Cordyceps Fungus
This fun fungus provides us with the closest thing we have to zombies in the known world.
This funky fungus infects a specific species of ant — the Carpenter ant (Camponotus leonardi). Once infected, the fungus takes over the ant’s brain, controlling its movements and mind by releasing chemicals that force the ant muscles to contract. Over seven days, the fungus tells its prey to abandon its nest and go find a grass stem at precisely 25cm above the ground. There, it tells the ant to bite into the leaf or stem, locking its mandibles and ultimately grows a long stalk through the ant’s head — bursting open to rain more deadly spores on the colony below.
You might think I picked these spooky pals because they have thousands of legs. That IS creepy, true, but they come in at number three for a different reason:
They can actually taste what their victims experienced as they consume their victim’s flesh.
(In this case, the victim was a fallen leaf).
4. Vampire bats
It’s a bird, it’s a plane — no, it’s a vampire bat! Very much real and not a myth. These fearsome foes feed solely on the blood of their prey, and only when it’s fully dark. When they land on their prey, they carefully shave away the hair with their cheek razor-teeth, before sinking in their fangs, in a bizarre reenactment of Sweeney Todd’s barbershop.
What’s worse? Sometimes they aren’t successful in finding prey — so they beg for regurgitated blood from their colony-mates.
These sinister spiders often have trouble taking actual bites out of their victims. Instead, they inject their prey (not only insects, but also larger prey like toads and mice) with venom to liquefy their flesh.
They then drink the liquified bodies through their straw-like mouths, like an extra-potent protein smoothie.
These bad buddies are fiendish when mating. The males must quickly scuttle away from the females for fear of being eaten post-copulation!
There you have it — five frightening creatures that exist in the natural world. Thanks to the #spookyecology tag on Twitter for suggesting some of these! Venture carefully out there tonight when trick-or-treating — you never know what spooky creature is waiting just around the corner…