10 Creatures That Are Nature's Most Efficient Killers

Anyone who’s taken a science class knows that in nature, the name of the game isn’t strength, it’s efficiency. Every species on the planet has evolved to survive with as little effort and as much payoff as possible. That goes double for nature's killing machines.

Sitting at the top of the food chain, predators have more competition for survival (and dominance) than you might think. In order to stay at the top, they’ve had to smooth out the wrinkles in their technique and become as efficient as possible. These alpha predators aren't always the species you’d expect, either. Big cats, for example, are actually pretty sloppy killers. One study of Bengal tigers, for example, said that only about five percent of hunts result in a kill. Not exactly nature’s perfect predators.

It doesn’t take fangs or claws to rack up an impressive kill count, you just have to have a plan and stick to it. Here, for your consideration, are the most efficient murderers in nature.

  • Dragonflies Catch More Than 90 Percent Of Their Prey

    Thanks to a specialized type of eye that allows dragonflies to see black spots against the sky, this airborne predator can easily spot normal flies moving in formation. 

    What’s more, a dragonfly’s wings make most fighter jets look humdrum. A dragonfly can fly straight up or straight down and the muscles in each of their four wings can operate independently, allowing for incredible speed and agility. Of course, according to neuroscientist Anthony Leonardo, the dragonfly’s most prized asset is its brain.

    “The brain uses a highly optimized hunting strategy that allows the dragonfly to predict where the prey is going and the appropriate muscle commands to intercept it,” he says.

  • The Pitcher Plant Doesn’t Need To Do Anything To Catch Its Prey

    Though they’re oddly beautiful when resting, the pitcher plant is an enormous trap designed to catch and kill bugs. These plants have evolved to compensate for the lack of nitrogen in the soil around them by drawing it in in the form of unwitting insects.

    They lure their prey in by emitting a sweet-smelling nectar. When the insects land on the lip of the pitcher plant, the surface is slippery, causing the bug to slip down the sides of the plant into a vat of chemicals that dissolve its flesh.

    Pitcher plants can grow up to six meters tall, with flowers that reach up to a meter high. Some can even hold up to two liters of flesh-eating liquid.

  • The Asian Giant Hornet Can Take Out 20 Victims A Minute

    The Asian Giant Hornet Can Take Out 20 Victims A Minute
    Photo: NUMBER7isBEST / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 4.0

    Though one to two stings from the Asian giant hornet can prove fatal to humans, they prefer to wreak havoc on colonies of honey bees. A group of no more than thirty of these incredibly talented killers can wipe out an entire colony of 30,000 bees in just a few hours.

    Even more disturbing, Asian giant hornets prefer to swoop down on their prey, using their mandibles to decapitate their targets. Asian giant hornets can grow up to two inches in length and are capable of stinging a human through a rain jacket. What’s more, the venom in that stinger is designed to break down the cells in your flesh and send searing, intense pain through your nerve cells.

  • The Arctic Polar Bear Has Evolved Perfectly To Coexist With Its Environment

    The Arctic Polar Bear Has Evolved Perfectly To Coexist With Its Environment
    Photo: Alan Wilson / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    Utilizing a tremendous blend of stealth and power, the Arctic polar bear makes minced meat of seals with minimal effort. Essentially, the polar bear’s white fur helps it to blend into its snowy environs well enough to lie in wait for a foolish seal to poke its head up through the ice.

    Polar bears will wait several hours near a seal’s fishing hole, waiting for the one split second when their prey chooses to appear. At that point, one swipe of a polar bear’s massive paw can put a seal in its grave.

  • The Blobfish, Nature’s Mystery, Just Inhales Whatever Passes By Its Mouth

    The Blobfish, Nature’s Mystery, Just Inhales Whatever Passes By Its Mouth
    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Because it lives on the bottom of the ocean floor, not a lot is known about the stupid-looking blobfish. It has no skeleton or teeth, and when it’s pulled from its natural habitat, it looks like a disgruntled cartoon character.

    Under the water, the enormous water pressure exerted on the blobfish makes it look surprisingly more fish-like (at least that’s what scientists assume, because no blob fish has actually been photographed in its natural habitat).

    However, scientists hypothesize that this bottom-feeder doesn’t even move to catch its prey. Whenever something wanders close, the blobfish simply inhales and hopes for the best. Essentially, that means that no matter what its success rate, the lack of energy expended means the blobfish is efficiency incarnate.

  • The Black-Footed Ferret Hunts Its Prey At Home

    The cute little fella you see in the picture may be endearing, but its also an efficient and ruthless killer. The primary food source of the ferret is the prairie dog. Rather than try and nab these little suckers above ground, the black-footed ferret tracks prairie dogs to their colony

    Then, the predator waits for his prey to fall asleep before slinking in the front door and moving through the colony quietly. The ferret will crawl up to a sleeping prairie dog and knock its head to wake it up. As the prairie dog rears up, it exposes its throat. The ferret lunges and the prairie dog is killed with essentially no noise, a tactic that allows the ferret to clean house over the course of the evening.