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Insider Insights: Articles

Five scary-looking terrors from the deep

By Daniel Martins
Digital Reporter
Sunday, June 15, 2014, 8:11 PM

One of the most popular things on our website last week had just the right combination of mystery and ominous deep-sea terror: The quest to find out what attacked a 3 m great white shark and apparently dragged it down to its doom.

No, it wasn't megalodon. It was likely an even larger shark that did in the great white, not an extinct prehistoric horror.

But you don't always have to go deep into the abyss to find something scary. We had a look around, and came up with this list of our favourite terrors from the deep, some genuinely frightening, and some that only wear terror as a cloak.

Saltwater crocodile

As if the ocean’s usual fare wasn’t potentially terrifying enough, we have this: The salt water crocodile, which is equally at home in the sea as it is in the river.

Common throughout southeast Asia, they’re most associated with Australia, and it's basically the reptilian poster-beast for the continent’s famously malignant fauna.

Here’s one almost grabbing the arm of a tour guide on a boat:

The idea of one of these guys snatching someone off a boat and dragging them off to be devoured is not at all far fetched. That happened just this month, when a 62 year old man was taken. Police in Australia’s Northern Territory later shot a crocodile that was found to have human remains in its stomach.

National Geographic has a story of an improperly sedated one snapping off the arm of a vet in Taiwan, although the limb was reattached.

Growing to a maximum of 7 m, for the most part, it’s at the top of the food chain, dining on everything from crabs and turtles up to buffalo, monkeys and apparently the occasional shark:

We don’t know how often they’re moved to snack on the ocean’s premier predators, but it seems they can give them a run for its money.

Incidentally, that shark up there, the bull shark? It apparently came off second best against the croc, but against pretty much everything else, it’s enough of a killing machine on its own to make it onto our list.

Bull sharks

You’ll often see bull sharks on lists of the deadliest sharks. According to this source, it’s number three on the list of sharks likely to kill you unprovoked.

IMAGE CREDIT: William Eburn

With an estimated 93 reported unprovoked attacks since 1580, including 26 fatal, it’s not far behind the tiger and great white, and depending on your source, it might be responsible for many more. Regardless of what the stats are, The Florida Natural History Museum says the bull shark is often considered the most dangerous.

It’s not just because they’re aggressive beasties (although National Geographic says they are), but because they live in the places we, specifically, like to swim: Coastal areas, lakes and rivers.

Lakes? Rivers? Yup. The science behind it is complicated, but the bull shark has learned how to survive in fresh water environments, meaning you’re much more likely to encounter one.

They’ve been found thousands of kilometres up the Mississippi and Amazon Rivers. Its alternative name, the Zambezi shark, comes from the river in southeast Africa where they’re been known to hunt. They even haunt the waters of Lake Nicaragua.

Skip ahead in the video below to about 55 seconds in. It’s an aerial shot of a horde of them swarming off a popular beach in Alabama.

Even with all the evidence against it, we must point out: The likelihood of a shark actually attacking you is pretty low. You’re more likely to meet your maker after a fatal encounter with a bear, dog, lightning bolt, collapsing sand pit and a huge array of other causes than you are at the fins of a bull shark.

Still, we can’t shake the feeling that a shark should have no business in a river, but maybe that’s just us.

Japanese Spider Crab

Hey, remember those face-hugger things from the ‘Alien’ films? The ones that would attach themselves to their victims’ faces? 

We don’t know about you, but we were always slightly relieved that, as horrible as they were, at least they were wee little things, and anyways, it was just a movie and nothing like that existed in real life.


Yep. That long and spindly creature is none other than the Japanese spider crab. And while our fictional face-huggers were about dinner-plate sized, this beastie is enormous. The carapace alone can get up to more than a foot across, and the whole thing can measure up to 4 m from leg-tip to leg-tip.

It’s the largest crab species in the world, and its horrific size gave rise to mariners’ tales of these Cthulu-like creatures snatching sailors from over the side and dragging them down to be devoured in the depths….

…which isn’t remotely a real thing that happens. Spider crabs are pretty much harmless to humans. 

Look beyond the creeping horror of the picture below to see the relatively small size of those claws.

Image: Popular Science Magazine

Those are the claws of a scavenger, which is what most crabs are. The ones in the YouTube video above look formidable, but without being buoyed by the water they live in, they’re paralyzed. One specimen at an aquarium in the U.K. could stretch its comparatively weak arms out of the water, but simply couldn’t haul itself out of its tank.

We feel almost cheated. We feel like something that huge and crusty should at least pose SOME threat to people.

NEXT PAGE: The real-life sea serpent

Seven weird things we found under the sea
Eight weird and wonderful kinds of sharks
Six tales of castaways who defied and defeated the ocean

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