Who are the real predators?

by Julie on May 14, 2015

Take a guess: which animal poses the biggest threat to humans? Sharks? Lions? Venomous snakes? Other humans? But in actuality, many of our assumptions about wild animals are misinformed. What we take for vicious savagery is a combination of misunderstood intentions and media sensationalism, and what we believe to be cute and cuddly may not always be the case. Read on to find out the real story behind infamous predators, because the most deadly animal of all might come as a surprise…


Image via SEA LIFE Arizona

Sharks have a bad reputation, there’s no denying it. The media has portrayed them as vicious killers, widely publicising shark attacks and sensationalising the violence. The 1975 film ‘Jaws’ is a classic example: it only serves to reinforce this negative connotation about shark behaviour towards humans.
But the reality is, sharks pose very little threat to humans. In fact, most bites on humans are either a mistake, where the shark mistakes the human for actual prey like a seal, or an ‘exploratory bite’, where the shark is trying to determine if what it’s biting is edible. According to National Geographic Shark Attack Facts, you have a 1 in 63 chance of dying from the flu during your lifetime. You have a 1 in 3,700,000 chance of being killed by a shark. Just to put things in perspective.


Image via Flickr

Following into a similar category of ‘ruthless blood-thirsty human hunter’, piranhas are another sea creature we’ve come to fear. The film ‘Piranha’ (originally made in 1978, and then remade in 2010) features a ‘Jaws’-like plot line – beach resort terrorized by savage underwater monster – and solidified the piranha’s dangerous reputation.
But again, it comes down to basic common sense: piranhas will leave you alone if you leave them alone. According to the Smithsonian Magazine, ‘the danger comes when the water level is low, prey is scarce, or you disturb its spawn buried in the riverbed—basically situations where the fish either feel really threatened or really hungry, and thus become more aggressive.’


 Image via Flickr


Fat, lazy, even cute (thanks to Disney’s ‘Fantasia’’): hippos aren’t seen as particularly threatening at all. They spend most of their time submerged in rivers and lakes to stay cool – they are able to hold their breath underwater for five minutes.
However, hippos have a deadly side: they are said to kill more humans every year in Africa than any other animal. Hippos are known to charge if they feel threatened or startled and despite their rather ungainly appearance, they can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.

Polar bears

Image via Flickr
Polar bears are seen as sweet and cuddly: they’ve been featured in an advertisement for Coca-Cola, they were one of the beloved main characters in Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass (which was adapted for the big screen in 2007), and there are more ‘cute polar bear cub’ photos than we know what to do with.
However, they are not as friendly as they appear. Although attacks on humans are rare, they won’t hesitate to defend themselves if they feel threatened, frightened or undernourished. And with the rapid melting of sea ice due to climate change, polar bears are being forced closer and closer to human communities, and the number of bear-human interactions is predicted to increase.


Image via Flickr
Surprisingly, the most deadly animal to humans is the mosquito. This seemingly harmless insect doesn’t have any intimidating physical features like razor-sharp teeth or long deadly claws, but what makes this such a dangerous creature is its ability to carry and transmit deadly diseases like malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and encephalitis.

Despite the fact that mosquitos are responsible for 725,000 deaths each year – even more than humans, which account for 415,000 deaths annually – the severity of their threat is not as widely known as, say, sharks. For more information on mosquitos, read Bill Gates’ blog post on the insect.

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