Predatory animals don’t exactly have an easy life; they have to chase down their prey, and often come up both tired and empty-handed. Some of the more Ingenious killers however, have developed some pretty amazing techniques that allow them to fool their prey into coming in close – eliminating the need for those exhausting chases through the woods, water, or air. In this list, we’ve gathered what we believe are the eight most ingenious killers in the wild today.
#8 Praying Mantis
The praying mantis is a master of camouflage. Because they can turn their heads 180 degrees, they have a wide field of vision to use for hunting. Usually, these wily creatures wait on a tree branch, disguising themselves as a leaf until their unsuspecting prey is too close to avoid death. The mantis can move incredibly quickly – they reach out and grab their prey with their front legs faster than the eye can see. The spikes on their legs then help to pin their prey in place. Though they usually hunt smaller creatures like grasshoppers and moths, some mantises have been known to hunt creatures as large as hummingbirds.
#7 Jumping Spider
Salticids, more commonly known as jumping spiders are quite ingenious due to their ability to camouflage themselves as ants. When hunting, they often walk among worker ants out foraging for food in order to stalk their prey. They have 360 degree vision, allowing them to look in any direction. Once they’ve found their prey, they will slowly approach until they are at a reachable distance – which is often far enough away that they haven’t even been noticed as a threat. When ready, they can use their third and fourth pairs of legs to jump up to 30 times their own body length. Before jumping, they attach a small strand of silk to their launch spot – this will keep them from falling too far should they miss.
#6 Braconid Wasp
The Braconid wasp is considered by many gardeners to be one of their best allies. These clever wasps will lay their eggs inside the body of a living hornworm caterpillar. These caterpillars often chow down on garden tomato plants – but not if there are some braconid wasps around. Those eggs will soon hatch into tiny larvae that will survive by feeding on the caterpillar’s internal organs. Then, after chowing down, the larvae will emerge from the caterpillar and create their cocoons on the carcass, eventually emerging fully grown and ready to start the cycle all over again.
#5 Alligator Snapping Turtle
This is the largest species of freshwater turtle in North America. As a slow mover, you’d think that hunting would be quite difficult, but not for this ingenious predator. The turtle catches prey by lying motionless in water, with its jaws open wide. It becomes so still that it looks to other animals like a rock. It will then slowly wiggle the appendage on its tongue to look like a worm. This has been known to fool birds, frogs, small fish, and even other turtles, who then walk right into the alligator snapping turtle’s waiting jaws.
#4 Assassin Bug
With a name like “assassin,” it’s no wonder this insect has made our list. This particular bug prefers to feed on spiders, turning those eight-legged predators into prey themselves. These clever insects use their legs to tap on the silk threads of a spider’s web, mimicking the vibrations made by insects who have become trapped. The spider comes out to attack, only to find themselves soon paralyzed and eaten themselves.
#3 Photuris Firefly
The photuris firefly is even worse than the assassin bug. Instead of fooling its prey into thinking they have found a tasty meal, the photuris firefly fools regular firefly males into thinking that they have found a mate. The Photuris firefly spies on the females of other firefly species, and begins to mimic the flashing patterns they make. This attracts males of that species, who approaching thinking they’ve found a mate, only to be devoured. In the process, the Photuris not only gets a tasty snack, they also obtain the chemical protection other firefly species have against predators such as spiders and birds.
#2 Green Heron
The green heron has a very unusual method of attracting prey – they go fishing for it, literally. The green heron will often drop small objects on the surface of a lake or stream in order to attract fish to the top. At times, they’ve even been known to experiment with various forms of bait, including stealing bread that park visitors have fed to ducks and using smaller fish as bait for larger fish. That’s one smart bird!