From time to time, YouTube videos of animals hunting prey in incredible ways will pop up and go viral. Usually these are one-off random events, but there is a long list of unknown and unusual methods that animals commonly use as a method of hunting.
As the saying goes, it’s a jungle out there. You will also hear that it is the survival of the strongest, but sometimes those who are not the strongest adapt and get smart.
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10 Komodo dragon
These beasts, sometimes called “land crocodiles,” are the largest living lizards on earth. They grow up to 3 m long and weigh up to 70 kg. They are carnivores and are known to have fatal encounters with humans, but don’t worry, they’re mostly confined to a few remote islands in Indonesia, including Komodo (essentially a national park), hence the name.
Komodos hunt in packs, but their method of killing is by charging their prey and attacking their underside or neck with their sharp claws and serrated teeth, causing rapid blood loss or fatal cuts. An initial Komodo charge, however, may not always finish the job, severely wounding the prey before the dragon continues to tear flesh from its grounded victim and eat it alive.
There is also a theory that their teeth contain poison to make things worse for unfortunate prey.
9 Golden eagle
These birds of prey have a wide variety of foods including squirrels, capercaillie, pheasants, reptiles, and small birds, but they are known for their attacks on deer. These dark brown northern hemisphere eagles have powerful feet and sharp claws that enable them to dash in from above and snap up incompetent defenses.
However, golden eagles went viral on Youtube after shocking videos surfaced of them tumbling on goats on the edge of cliffs before capturing them and deliberately dropping them from a distance into the rocks below to kill them. The golden eagles then feed on the carcass of the dead goat. Given the weight of goats, sometimes over 100 kilograms, catching them and picking them up in mid-flight is not an easy task. Eagles are opportunistic feeders, but that takes it to the next level.
8th Electric eel
There are very few animals like electric eels when it comes to the way they hunt and use their unusual electrical charge to stun their prey. Electric eels also typically live in dark and murky waters, so their shock power can literally shock unsuspecting victims who turn into a meal in seconds.
An electric eel’s diet is carnivorous and typically consists of fish, crustaceans, insects, and small vertebrates such as amphibians and reptiles. The eel also uses its shock power or defense for hunting.
The movement-sensitive hairs of the eel on its body recognize every change in pressure in the dark water that causes a doublet. These are two quick electrical impulses that hit the prey’s muscles, numbing them, and eventually paralyzing them so the eel can consume them.
These insects are commonly known as web spiders, which illustrates their unique hunting technique for catching unsuspecting prey. Reticulated spiders, found in the tropics of Australia, Africa, and the Americas, are after dark hunters and use their extraordinary vision through their huge eyes to spot prey – typically ants, moths, crickets or beetles – before they hit their web in one case, throwing lightning-fast motion over the victim.
The spider makes the web from its own silk, sometimes three times its size. Typically, a feces trap is set as the target point before seriously waiting for a victim to approach. At that moment, with his ogre eyes ready for any movement, he entangles his prey in his web at incredible speed before biting and consuming it.
These monkfish are super ugly and they are also poor swimmers who usually stay on the ocean floor, but they are highly effective hunters. Their unusual appearance is said to help capture prey, using a combination of camouflage and mimicry. Once they lure a victim, they reach lightning speeds of just 6 milliseconds (response time for most people is 200 milliseconds).
Frogfish are covered in spinels that help provide camouflage, while some can change color to blend in. In their technique of catching their prey, they don’t move, but rather lure prey with strange-looking limbs that are effectively bait. The limbs, which often look like worms, wiggle around as a victim approaches and lure them closer before the frogfish strikes, just as the prey with its quick ambush is within range. The frogfish has a huge wide mouth that suddenly opens and devours the victim, and a special muscle in the esophagus that ensures that prey cannot escape if swallowed. Frogfish can swallow animals twice as large.
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5 Secretary birds
No, don’t let the name fool you, there are birds that are tough and ruthless. It is a bird of prey, but unusually it hunts terrestrially, that is, on land instead of flying in from the air. The weapon of choice for secretary birds – who prefer to hunt in pairs – are their feet, as they kill their prey by kicking or stamping them to death. The secretary bird suitcases hunt during the cooler parts of the day and eventually stomp on the vegetation to flush them out before their pounding attack.
The prey of secretary birds, native to Africa, consists of insects such as grasshoppers and beetles, but also of mammals such as mice, rabbits and mongooses. It is also claimed that secretary birds sometimes kill snakes, like cobras with their persistent kicks on the head to kill or immobilize. The scientific name of the secretary bird, Sagittarius serpentarius, means “the archer of snakes”. When attacking, they spread their wings and raise their feathered crest in a grandiose expression of power and intimidation, but also distraction, as a snake bite on the feathers will not harm the bird given the lack of meat.
This lonely and nocturnal little cat, native to South and Central America, uses the rare technique of mimicry to lure its prey. The margay hunts small mammals like monkeys and squirrels, as well as birds, eggs, lizards, and tree frogs, while also sometimes known as vegetarians.
It is known that the Margay utters the infant cries of monkeys like wild piebald tamarins. The premise of vocalization is to attract prey in order to facilitate an attack and to reduce energy consumption for pursuit, thereby increasing the margay’s chances of success.
3 Archer fish
When we were young we all played with a ‘Super Soaker’ water pistol, but the archerfish took the concept to the next level by making it their hunting method. Archerfish hover near the surface, shooting land-based insects from a few meters away with their deadly combination of purposeful aim and power with water from their mouths. If absent first, they are stubborn and can actually shoot seven streams of water out of their mouth at one time.
The archerfish’s name comes from this technique and reflects their ability to spit a “bow” of water at their prey, and they are keen marksmen at it. Archerfish are found in brackish water habitats, primarily in mangroves and estuaries in Southeast Asia and Northern Australia. They can jump out of the water to attack if their shot doesn’t effectively knock their prey down.
With that in mind, they are one of the few animals that uses tools around them – the water – to hunt.
These illuminated larvae may be pretty to the eye and used as tourist attractions in some parts of New Zealand, but their glow is actually their hunting technique. Fireflies glow through bioluminescence, which is essentially the emission of light produced by a chemical reaction. But the glow is supposed to attract insects to them. Any insects that get too close to the light will be trapped by the large sticky webs of the fireflies that reside in burrows and overhangs where they are in groups.
Therefore, caves that are dark and damp are the perfect hunting ground for fireflies. Hence, they are usually the best place to find fireflies in action. They may look like worms, but they are actually bugs or mosquitoes.
These nifty mammals are even smarter than the TV show Flipper. The dolphins work as a team to hunt, but one of the strangest techniques they use is creating “mud webs” that cause their prey, fish, to leap out of the water into their waiting mouths.
A dolphin hits the ocean floor with its tails while swimming to stir up the mud on the ocean floor and create feathers in the water before swimming in a circle around a school to fish and form a swirling ring of mud. As a result, the trapped fish try to escape the ring by jumping out of the water where the dolphins parked with their mouths open waiting for their food, as captured by BBC Earth.
Bottlenose dolphins have many other hunting techniques, including fish-beating and rope-feeding, but their mud-ring-feeding technique is a highly intelligent strategy.
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About the author: I am a media / communications professional and longtime freelance Australian journalist. I’ve written for global publications like AAP, Sunday Times, FourFourTwo, and many more. Follow me on Twitter @BenSomerford