Must Resist the Urge to Pet
The platypus is an incredibly fascinating creature. Some people love it for its cuteness while others enjoy it for the oddity that it is. It’s not often that people refuse to believe that you actually exist even when they see you. However, that is exactly what happened when Europeans first encountered the platypus in Australia and sent back drawings and pelts. Everyone in Europe thought that such a strange creature was some kind of prank; somebody just glued a duckbill to a beaver body.
However, as it turned out, the platypus is very real and its odd looks are just the start. It is also one of the very few monotremes (mammals that lay eggs) in the world. In fact, just five species have been discovered so far: four of them are different species of echidna and the fifth is the platypus.
They have a very innocent and disarming look about them, so what harm could a tiny platypus do? Well, it also belongs to another exclusive group: venomous mammals. That’s right, platypuses have spurs on their hind legs which they use to deliver venom to their targets. It is actually pretty unlikely to kill a human. A healthy, adult human can definitely survive it, although they will experience excruciating pain. Here’s a tip: only the males actually produce venom. If you really want to hold one of these cute critters, make sure it’s a female platypus first.
2. Pfeffer’s Flamboyant Cuttlefish
Before you ask, yes, that is its actual name. These colorful guys can be found in tropical waters near Australia and islands in Indonesia and the Philippines. They are pretty tiny, growing to only 5 to 8 cm (2 to 3 in) in mantle length.
Their diminutive size as well as their “flamboyant” appearance can make them appear quite endearing, especially for curious divers. However, as we need to learn, in nature colorful is not a good thing. Camouflage is your friend if you want to hide so, when you are proudly displaying yourself out in the open, it means you have nothing to fear. And that, of course, is because this little guy is extremely poisonous.
It is actually one of the few species of poisonous cephalopods (more on that later). Its toxin is definitely strong enough to kill a human. With that in mind, perhaps a name change would be in order…something like Pfeffer’s Deadly Cuttlefish. It seems more relevant than the fact that it is flamboyant.
3. Slow Loris
Just look at those giant, adorable eyes. How can this little guy hurt you? You just want to take it home and snuggle with it. Well, remember how we were talking earlier about venomous mammals? The slow loris is another rare example of a mammal that produces a toxin. It is located in its elbow (weird place, right?) so, whatever you do, don’t eat it.
Ok, there was a really small chance of that happening, anyway. However, the slow loris can also suck that toxin and deliver it via bite, making it venomous, not only poisonous. In the wild, parents would actually apply this poison unto the babies in order to deter predators. The toxin is quite harmful to humans, but usually it is not fatal. However, there is a chance of experiencing an allergic reaction to it and dying of anaphylactic shock.
What makes the loris potentially more dangerous is that it is quite a popular exotic pet. Youtube has numerous videos of people showing off their lorises. In order to make them safe for humans, many traders pull out or cut their teeth so they can’t bite. This greatly increases the chance that they will die from an infection. So, a pet loris is a bad idea because it either a) is dangerous and potentially deadly or b) underwent suffering in order to make it safe.
Ok, this guy looks like an overgrown turkey, is it really that dangerous? To answer your question, all you have to do is look at its feet. The cassowary has a pair of giant, three-toed feet with very sharp claws. The one in the middle is longer than the rest. At about 5 inches, it acts, more or less, like a dagger.
Cassowaries can be found in Australia and nearby islands. They are a giant ratite (flightless bird), outmatched in size only by the ostrich and the emu. They are also pretty colorful so the temptation to get up close and maybe feed one of them can be pretty high.
This is not recommended at all, though, because cassowaries are extremely aggressive since they know they have the size and the weapons to back it up. Even though locals know to stay away from them, over 150 attacks on humans have been recorded (one of which was fatal). Cassowaries are faster than you and they will lunge at you, trying to disembowel you using those sharp claws.
5. Blue-ringed Octopus
Again, small and colorful should trigger warning lights but oftentimes it doesn’t. Divers like to interact with octopuses and the blue-ringed species are among the most beautiful. Since they are tiny, they are often perceived as being no threat, even if they do attempt to bite you. However, this would be a severe underestimation as these species of octopus actually posses one of the most potent toxins in nature – tetradotoxin, also found in poison dart frogs, considered to be over 1,000 times deadlier than cyanide.
This is definitely an animal to avoid, but it also has very appealing looks. It is found among the coral reefs of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Divers who are unaware of the dangers are tempted to get in close because the dozens of rings it has can actually begin to pulsate, creating quite a spectacle. However, those same divers are likely unaware that the octopus does this when it feels agitated or threatened, making it as dangerous as it could get.
Truth be told, most victims bitten by the blue-ringed octopus aren’t curious divers. They are simply people who unwittingly come too close. The octopus is small and can hide pretty well. If it feels threatened, it will deliver a bite which is virtually painless. People who have been bitten don’t usually know it has happened until the toxin starts paralyzing their body. The venom of the blue-ringed octopus is enough to kill an adult within hours if there is no help available. Unfortunately, there is no antivenom for it so hospital treatment is absolutely necessary. It only takes a few minutes for the potent venom to act and paralyze its victim.
Featured image courtesy of Silke Hahn via Wiki Commons.