Despite what humans may try to say on the matter, nature's most effective predators are typically animals, especially animals that eat bigger meals than them. It takes more than just guts to go after prey larger than yourself; smaller predators need to utilize some crazy hunting techniques or possess a powerful weapon in order to bring down animals that outrank them in size. Yet these little fighters never back down from a challenge, determined to get their big animal meals one way or another.
From tiny insects taking out birds to reptiles consuming entire water buffalo, animal meals present a fascinating look at the remarkable ways organisms must fight to survive. Some of the hunters in this list are literally infants, and they almost always get their prey. Even in the natural realm, size, as it turns out, doesn't matter.
With unblinking eyes that seem bigger than their stomachs, snakes swallow some of the largest prey imaginable in comparison to their slender figures. These reptiles wolf down meals that seem impossible due to their size difference. Their expandable jaws and flexible bone structures allow many snake species to eat prey many times their own size and weight, their bodies simply expanding to allow large prey to pass through. And when a snake eats a large mammal or even a crocodile, it won't need to feed again for several weeks.
But snakes need to take caution when undertaking larger meals. For one thing, a large meal may take hours to consume, leaving the snake vulnerable to other predators. And of course, some snakes can't take it all in and end up exploding. It sounds disgusting, but that's the circle of life.
Komodo dragons make for ferocious and capable predators. They are the largest lizard in the world, possess incredible strength, and are quicker than their ungainly appearance may imply. Using their preferred hunting tactic of lying in wait and ambushing prey, Komodo dragons consume animals to four times their own weight, including water buffalo and deer.
Leaping into the air while beating at their prey with their front paws, the dragons use this moment of surprise to knock the animal over, upon which the dragon attacks it. Animals that survive this initial assault usually bleed to death or suffer from sepsis due to the dragon's poisonous mouth, allowing the Komodo dragon to simply follow them until they die.
The Epomis species of beetle remains one of the most unique ever discovered. In the larvae stage, the creatures perform a kind of dance, with the movements attracting the attention of passing toads and frogs that are many times their size. Once the amphibian comes close enough to try to eat the larvae, it dodges out of the way and quickly latches onto the skin of its prey. Here it can essentially suck the creature dry, leaving just bones behind.
Researchers found that out of hundreds of tests, no frog or toad successfully ate the larvae or escaped. Even an amphibian that managed to consume a larvae only held it down for a few hours, before throwing it back up, upon which the larvae ate the amphibian.
It sounds outlandish to suggest not one but two little critters possess enough gumption to go against the natural order and prey upon birds. Yet praying mantises all around the world, like the Goliath birdeater, do just that. Researchers observed these predators preying on a variety of different songbirds and hummingbirds in dozens of countries.
They typically approach while the bird feeds and attack at the bird's neck or head. After the bird dies, the praying mantis will either scalp the creature or dig through the eye sockets to get to its favorite part: the brains.