Five pint-sized predators who fear nothing
Sunday, March 9, 2014, 10:16 PM -
Earlier in the week, we published a story about an epic four-hour struggle between a snake and a crocodile in Australia.
It rapidly became one of our most-viewed items, and no wonder. When thinking of the law of the jungle, it's usually predator versus prey, with the former usually being large and muscular and the other being weaker and/or smaller.
We had a hunt around, and came up with these five predator-prey relationships where the predator either punches WELL above its weight, or has the last diet you'd expect (reader discretion advised on some of these videos).
Wolverine versus bear
Long before it became the namesake of the iconic Marvel superhero, the wolverine, about the size of a dog, has a richly deserved reputation: A vicious predator that is apparently unafraid of anything else on Earth.
Take a look at this contest between one of these beasts, and a bear who seems to have invaded his territory:
Yep. A bear. Noticeably larger than the wolverine, and famously one of the most dangerous things in Canada's forests. At one point, its little challenger chases it right up a tree, then goes toe to toe with it on the ground.
The bear's occasional swipes at the wolverine seem almost to have an air of bafflement, like it seriously can't believe this is happening, before it finally ambles off.
It likely wasn't a fluke. The omnivorous wolverine only weighs around 15 kg, but it can run up to 24 km/h and its powerful jaws are equally useful against berries and nuts, right up to moose and caribou, according to some reports.
Honey badger versus puff adder
Looking like a larger and grouchier version of the common North American skunk, the honey badger is another pint-sized predator that will attack and eat almost anything ... even if its prey is one of Africa's staggeringly comprehensive variety of poisonous snakes.
If you've heard of this beastie's dietary habits, it's likely from this documentary:
The beast seriously attacks a puff adder, one of the most under-rated but deadly snakes in Africa. With its claws and jaws, of course it wins, but not before being bitten.
Rather than dying, it passes into a coma, and reemerges just a couple of hours later to continue its feast.
The puff adder is just one of the estimated 60 species of prey that make up this tough guy's diet. Including, incredibly, African rock pythons, one of the largest snake species on Earth, reaching lengths of more than 3 m in some cases.
Even its name has a horrible twist to it. It's called the "honey" badger because it's been known to raid beehives - not for honey, but to eat the larvae.
The species has a complicated conservation status, but in some countries, it is protected by law.
Octopus versus seagull
The title of this entry would have raised a shrug or two - "So? Seagulls eat basically anything" - until 2012, when a lucky amateur photographer encountered one of the tenacious and ubiquitous feathered creatures in the middle of a VERY uncommon reversal of fortune.
Ginger Morneau was strolling with her camera along Ogden Point in Victoria, B.C., when she happened upon the epic struggle:
No one is sure how the eight-armed creature managed to get its tendrils on the seagull, but by the time Morneau arrived on the scene, the battle lasted only another minute before the gull gave up the ghost.
Its foe, a giant Pacific octopus, was about a metre long, but they can get to around 3-5 m, with the record being a terrifying 9 m.
They live, as you'd expect, mostly on sea life (fish, shrimp and other small prey mostly, but apparently sharks too, if they can get them), but National Geographic also includes a vague reference to the occasional bird.
Morneau herself, it seems, wasn't super happy with all the attention she got after her photos went viral, but hoped the news of the incident would spark interest in conservation:
If nothing else, her photos showed the world even the famously fearless seagull isn't safe from the occasional peckish octopus.
NEXT: The spider that eats birds
Eagle versus deer
This one's about a predator that, in theory, you know is willing and capable of attacking prey larger than itself, but for some reason, it doesn't sink in until you actually see it happen.
That's the feeling we got, at least, when the Zoological Society of London released pictures of a golden eagle attacking a sika deer.
Researchers didn't witness it in person, but a remote camera set up in Russia's far eastern region snapped a handful of frames of the contest, as the deer struggled to escape the swooping eagle.
When we picture these birds on the hunt, it's easy to imagine them scooping up a squirrel or rabbit, or even other birds, and carrying them off to be devoured.
But it's another, unnerving, thing entirely to see it right on the heels of the clearly much larger deer in the pic above.
Although the deer's final fate only happens out of frame, there's sadly no doubt as to how that battle ended.
The researcher who broke the story described finding the carcass during a routine equipment check, with no predator tracks in sight, and didn't figure out what happened until she got the photos back to the lab.
Goliath spider versus bird
Forgive us the pun, but we'd love to have been a fly on the wall the day a Victorian explorer stumbling through the South American jungle happened upon a giant spider chowing down on a hummingbird.
They say you are what you eat, and ever since then, the goliath bird-eating spider has its entire reputation based just on that one first witnessed meal way back in the 1800s.
Well, known for that, AND its enormous size - around 30 cm in some specimens, believed to be among the largest, if not THE largest species of spider in the world.
Despite its name, most sources are quick to point out that goliaths don't usually eat birds (although this source says they've been known to raid nests for bird hatchlings). We can't find any first-hand accounts of anyone actually witnessing one actually attacking the bird, so in fact, even though it's been seen eating birds, it may just have scavenged already-deceased ones.
Still, it's got an impressive diet all the same.
Although it mostly eats insects and other invertebrates, it still preys on rats and mice, lizards, bats and other animals most people have trouble picturing as a meal for these animals.
As for us, well, despite the horrible prospect of stumbling on a foot-long spider in the wild, its bite, while thoroughly unpleasant, isn't very venomous. It has been known to flick spines from its hind legs into people's eyes when threatened, however, which can be highly irritating.