MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IS A FROG
dart frog of South America, scientific name Phyllobates terribilis,
is arguably the most dangerous animal in the world. To a laboratory mouse
the frog's skin secretions are more than 400 times as toxic as the venom
of a king cobra. Another dangerous animal, the funnel-web spider from
Sydney, Australia, has venom more toxic than that of an eastern diamondback
rattlesnake. Drop for drop, the funnel-web is about five times as venomous
as a black widow spider.
The book is full of information about and color photographs of the world's most toxic animals. Some are "venomous," meaning they have venom glands and inject the toxin into their victims. Others are "poisonous" in that their bodies or skin secretions are toxic if eaten or otherwise absorbed. The venomous species include scorpions, centipedes, spiders, and jellyfish. Poisonous ones include millipedes that produce cyanide, fire salamanders and California newts with toxic skin secretions, and blister beetles that secrete a burning chemical from their leg joints.
The Sydney funnel-web spider is credited with being the world's most dangerous spider. Although both sexes have venom and will bite, the male is smaller but more dangerous. Interestingly, the venom of male funnel-webs is more virulent to humans and other primates than to mice or dogs, which means that they are even more dangerous to us than some laboratory tests would indicate. Before an antivenin was developed in 1981, at least a dozen deaths had been documented from funnel-web spider bites. To develop the antivenin, venom is extracted from spiders and injected into beagles, which build up an immunity to the spider venom. The antibodies generated by the dogs are the foundation for the antivenin. Apparently the development of an antidote that neutralizes the spider venom in a bite victim has greatly reduced the chance of fatality from the bites.
The book's photography is outstanding, in part because many toxic animals are brightly colored. Some of the photographs include the author himself in situations reminiscent of Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter. In one he is confronting a Mozambique spitting cobra that he says "let rip with a jet of venom, which drenched the goggles protecting my eyes." In another he is holding a brightly colored red, yellow, and black snake "during a tropical downpour," while he is "frantically assessing the colour bands to . . . figure out whether it is a deadly coral snake or a harmless false coral." Backshall is also shown in an underwater scene where he is reaching his hand toward the mouth of a gigantic stingray. He notes that stingrays "generally make excellent swimming partners. I fed this one for nearly an hour and it behaved like a large, friendly dog."
The concluding section of the book discusses some of the environmental threats faced by the featured species of animals. The author notes that unrestrained human population growth, which has now given us more than 6 billion humans, is leading to the decline of wildlife on a worldwide scale. Animals in oceans, forests, and even deserts are under siege from human habitat destruction and other assaults.
Animals of the World" sports stunning color photographs of some of
the most toxic animals in the world, such as the deadly poison dart frogs
with their brilliant reds, yellows, greens, and blues. A first step in
any conservation effort is to develop an awareness of and appreciation
for all wild animals and plants, even those that protect themselves by
defenses that can be lethal to us. This book does just that.