7 Real Life Organisms That Seem to be Born From Nightmares

The world is a scary place, but  the things we are scared of during the day are hardly the most terrifying things out there. These real life creatures remind us that there are far scarier things in this world than sharks, spiders and bears.

1. Asian Giant Hornet

Image via Wikipedia

"Giant" and "hornet" are two words very few people want to see next to one another -and with good reason. The Asian giant hornet is exactly what you would expect from the name -a giant hornet that lives in Asia. Don't console yourself by thinking that maybe their size is a tradeoff that makes them less dangerous either. These giant hornets are just as aggressive as the regular ones we've all seen and their venom is even more potent. In fact, 30 to 40 people die each year in Japan due to stings from these wasps.

You may be thinking, "well at least they're in Asia so I'm safe here in my North American or Western European home," but while that might be true for the time being, the insects have been spotted in the US, France and England already and their numbers are likely to go up, not down in these countries.

Sources: Daily Kos, Wikipedia

2. Human Botfly

Warning: This video is not for the squeamish -in fact, it's not for 90% of people, it's just nightmarish.

(Video Link)

Visually the botfly is just another fly and gross, but not all that terrible. But when you consider that the human botlfy larvae feeds on human flesh, it's easy to see why this insect is absolutely a thing of nightmares. The bug will lay its eggs on mosquitoes and ticks that then deposit the eggs on human skin when the blood-sucker goes in for a bite to eat. The eggs then manage to get under the skin of humans through the hole left behind by the parasite they were attached to and then the larvae will live there for six to eight weeks before bursting through the skin as a full-grown adult. It's enough to make you want to bathe in bug repellant.

Sources: ABC News, Wikipedia

3. Colossal Squid

Image via Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Even if you don't find squids creepy, which many people do, it's absolutely horrifying that something this big could be hiding under the ocean and still remain such a mystery to us surface dwellers. Despite the fact that Colossal squids can grow to 46 feet long and 1650 pounds, a full-sized specimen was never recovered until 1981. Up until that point, the only proof that colossal squids existed was through the collection of random parts of the squid such as tentacles and beaks found washed up on shore or in the belly of sperm whales.

Image via Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Colossal squids aren't even the longest squid out there, though they are the heaviest. That honor goes to the giant squid, which have been long talked about in myths and fishermen's tales, but also remain largely unseen and are still largely a mystery to scientists. The colossal squid are creepier than their giant cousins though thanks to their nasty arms, which feature suckers with sharp hooks on them. Some species have swiveling hooks, some have multiple hooks per sucker -but no matter the arrangement, these hooks are all horrifying. Many sperm whales have scars along their backs from trying to catch and eat colossal squid. We're lucky these deep-sea monsters live where no humans would dare to swim or else getting attacked by a giant squid would be a serious threat to beach-goers.

Sources: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Wikipedia

4. The Tongue-Eating Isopod

(Video Link)

Isopods by nature are creepy looking, but when they are a specific kind that parasitically live in the fish's mouths and serve in place of its severed tongue, that is truly horrifying. The tiny parasites enter the fish through its gills. They are born male and if they enter a fish that already has a female, they will stay that way, otherwise, one of the isopods will turn into a female and grow significantly. Inside the fish, the female will cut the blood supply from the fish's tongue, leaving it to atrophy and when the tongue falls off, it will attach itself to the stub of the tongue and take the place of the fish's actual tongue. Meanwhile, the males will attach themselves on the gill arches behind the female.

Image via Paddleguy

Even more scary than this parasite's mere existence is how common it is. In fact, there are 280  tongue-eating isopods out there. Let's hope they don't evolve and start eating mammal tongues!

Sources: National Geographic, Wikipedia

5. Zombie Fungus

Image via Wired

Sure it might not be a threat to humans, but the mere concept of a fungus that can take control of its host is pretty terrifying even if it only affects ants. The fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis (also called the zombie fungus), can only thrive at a particular temperature, humidity, location and distance from the ground. Since it can't get there on its own, it instead infects ants and gets them to walk to its ideal location and then makes them stay in the same spot until they die -at which point it explodes outside their exoskeletons and eventually releases spores that can infect other unsuspecting ants. Amazingly, there are around 160 types of these funguses and each one of them seeks out a specific species of ant, and this has been going on for over 48 million years.

Is it any wonder The Last of Us was so terrifying to so many players when it basically took this concept and applied it to humans?

Sources: Scientific American, Wired, Wikipedia

6. Wolf-Trap Anglerfish

Image via Wikipedia

There are a lot of creepy fishes living in the deep trenches where no light can reach. The wolf-trap anglerfish is one particularly nasty example. Many anglerfish have their characteristic fishing rods on their head, which lure fish to the predator's mouth (though scientists debate whether the hook at the end is actually there to help impale fish or just to lure them close enough to the anglerfish's mouth). While the barb's on the wolf-trap's lure are particularly nasty, they aren't what earned it a spot on this list. In fact, it's the fish's mouth that makes it truly nightmarish as they operate much like a the wolf trap they are named for.

This anglerfish's bottom jaw is rather short, with short teeth and their top jaw is long and wide with a massive lip that actually folds completely over the bottom jaw. Technically, these aren't even lips, they're called premaxillaries and they have bone in them to make them sturdier and long, curved teeth to ensure anything unfortunate enough to end up in the anglerfish's mouth won't be lucky enough to make it out.

Sources: Real Monstrosities, Wikipedia

7. The Pacu and Sheephead Fish

Image via Wikipedia

These two fish species are pretty normal-looking at first glance, but they have one incredibly disturbing feature in common -teeth that look distinctly human-like. The pacu is actually a relative of the pirhana, but rather than inheriting its better known cousin's pointed choppers, it has square, straight teeth which it evolved to eat plants. The sheephead fish went down a drastically different evolutionary path that led it to have its disturbingly familiar smile, developing several rows of stubby teeth to crush the shells of its prey, which consists largely of crustaceans and shellfish.

While these fish may not present any real threat to humans, seeing a fish smile back at you just like a person is deeply unsettling and truly seems like something you would see in a nightmare, not on a real life fishing excursion.

Sources: Mother Nature Network, Scientific American, Wikipedia #1, Wikipedia #2

There are plenty more nightmarish animals (and fungi) out there, so if you've run across a creature that makes your skin crawl, feel free to share it in the comments.

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