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Check Your Shoes, Seriously

December 1, 2009

Oh, Mother Nature.  If anyone ever took the time to look at her closely, they would probably never come out of their house.  I mean, everyone knows about the obvious killers: tornados, floods, Paulie Shore movies.  But what about the tiny creatures that humanity has forgotten about?  You know, the little killers that can fit inside your shoe.  Sure, scorpions and Black Widow spiders are all well and good, but what about the really scary ones; the critters that can kill you and majority of your Facebook social circle?  Here’s the top five, so you know what to look for.

The least deadly on our list is also the most adorable.  In fact, it’s probably Nature’s ironic way of getting back at humanity for having high-schoolers dissect so many of its harmless relatives: the Poison Dart Frog.  Granted, it has the word “poison” right in its name, so you would have to be pretty stupid to screw around with this guy; but he’s so darn cute.  Well, let’s pretend that you happen upon one of these adorable little devils, because you’re traveling in Central or Southern America, as one often does.  Once he touches you, you’ll have a whole host of funky chemicals running through your system.  In fact, some reports indicate that this blue meanie has enough venom to kill you and your nine closest friends (or approximately 20,000 mice for our rodent readers).  Depending on the species of frog, you may die in minutes or get about as sick as the Pad Thai from that sketchy 24-hour Chinese restaurant down the street.  Either way, you had better get to a doctor very fast.  Oh wait, you’re in the middle of the Columbian rainforest and there aren’t any doctors for miles.  In that case, don’t be surprised if a search party finds your desiccated corpse months later next to a tree with the words “Screw you, Kermit” carved into the bark.

Sticking with the blue theme, let’s take a look at number four on our killer countdown: the Blue-Ringed Octopus.  This tiny, eight-legged freak is so adorably small that you may mistake him for a golf ball.  Granted, you would have to use some pretty weird looking balls to make that miscalculation, but stranger things have happened.  Let’s pretend you’re hunting for shells in the tide pools of the Eastern hemisphere and this grabby bugger decides you latch on and give you a nibble.  Once his razor-sharp beak cuts you open, he’ll inject you with enough poison to murder you and 25 other full-grown humans.  That’s basically a VW Mini-Bus worth of flower children parked on the lawn at Woodstock.  The best part?  You won’t even be able to do anything about it, because the toxins get to work immediately, causing muscle weakness, numbness, paralysis, and eventual death.  Fun weekend at the beach, right?

Third for tiny and terrifying: the Marbled Cone Snail.  It might be hard to tell what in the picture is a rock and what is an animal producing a poison so potent that one drop can kill over 20 humans.  The hint is: it’s the rock that looks the biggest.  That’s really the only clue you’ll have if you’re collecting shiny pebbles on the beach.  Well, that and the fact that you will likely begin to feel the effects of its neurotoxin cocktail immediately.  Blurred vision, swelling, tingling, and muscle paralysis are some of the symptoms.  It’ll seem like the worst fraternity hazing prank ever; and not just because you’ll end up unconscious while your friends write on your face in Sharpie.  No, you’re likely to be dead before they can pop the cap and begin thinking of a clever racial slur to stamp on your forehead.  But not necessarily.  The really trippy part is that you could die up to four days later, with no previous symptoms.  So, if you go to the beach and feel a little queasy three days later, you should write up your will real fast.

Think of the second to most deadly member of our list every time you eat a banana.  The Brazilian Wandering Spider loves to camp out in banana bunches and jump down on its unsuspecting prey.  That’s all well and good, except when its prey ends up being a less-than-minimum-wage-earning migrant worker.  Somehow a condolence fruit basket from the Chiquita lady just doesn’t seem like enough.  But don’t worry, these creepy crawlies also love to – as their name suggests – wander to all sorts of places, including cars, homes, piles of clothes, boots, pretty much anywhere you might accidently piss them off.  And when they get angry, remember that you are dealing with a celebrity: this spider set the record in 2007 for the most venomous and the spider responsible for the most human deaths.  And they were horrible erection-filled deaths too.  That’s right, I said erection.  One of the most common effects of the spider’s bite is priapism.  You might remember it from the Viagra adds they run during the football game, where they tell you to consult a doctor with an erection lasting more than four hours.  So, not only is it an undignified way to die (say goodbye to an open casket service) but it often means that even if you get medical treatment in time to survive, a little part of you has died regardless.  Well, not little; a good size.

Which brings us to number one, or however you say that in Australian: the Box Jellyfish.  It’s found primarily in the waters surrounding the land down under and can reach up to ten feet in length.  Almost forgot to mention though, one sting can kill you before you have time to get back to the beach.  You’re enjoying a vacation in Oz, pretending you’re Crocodile Dundee while you splash in the waves, and you suddenly think you’re having a heart attack.  It’s probably because five minutes earlier, you were stung by a Box Jelly and didn’t even feel it.  The toxins immediately and simultaneously attack your heart, lungs, and nervous system, causing full body muscle spasms leading to paralysis, cardiac arrest, and shock induced coma.  Even if you make it back to shore before your body seizes up and you sink like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of Titanic, you still have weeks of painful recovery to look forward to.  You’ll be vomiting, crying, shaking, and soiling yourself enough to put a newborn to shame.  It might be worth mentioning that if you had been wearing a pair of lady’s pantyhose, you wouldn’t even need to worry about the jellyfish stingers reaching your skin.  But nevermind; you’re probably too manly to wear that kind of thing.  Let us know how manly you feel when you’re crying like a Girl Scout who skinned her knee just before making her first cookie delivery.

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