Guess what time it is? That's right: Shark Week. That means we should all gird our loins for countless documentaries and conversations at parties devoted to ranking the world's deadliest animals. But although you've probably spent hours debating the killing power of tigers versus bears (oh my!) with your friends, I have terrible news for both schools of thought: According to researchers at GOOD, the deadliest animals in the world and the scariest ones aren't the same thing. Despite the high-profile nature of attacks from animals like sharks and bears, the animals with the highest kill count are some of the most common. In fact, chances are pretty high that you're surrounded by the top two killers of the animal kingdom right now. Isn't science comforting?
Mosquitoes have killed more people than any other animal, beating out notoriously aggressive animals like hippopotami and even the aptly-named assassin bug, which transmits Chagas disease by literally pooping it into your system. Ugh. So what's the secret behind mosquitoes' epic death toll? Tiny assassin schools devoted to the sole purpose of murdering people? A species-wide vendetta against the human race after the invention of pesticides?
As movie-worthy as those speculations may be, the reality is way more depressing. You may be familiar with the fact that mosquitoes carry a little disease called malaria. According to GOOD, the insects are responsible for 725,000 deaths related to malaria each year, although the World Health Organization puts the number a little lower.
Yikes. Even if you look at the lower estimate, that's still a lot of deaths from such a tiny insect. In contrast, the second-most effective killer is much closer to human-sized — that is, it is exactly human-sized. Have you guessed it yet? No?
Surprise! People are the species with the second-highest kill count in the animal kingdom, with an estimated 475,000 deaths each year from murder. Congratulations to us.
The top-five list is rounded out by the freshwater snail (110,000 deaths per year from schistosomiasis), the ascaris roundworm (60,000 deaths per year), and snakes (50,000 deaths per year). So basically, we're surrounded by potential death at all times. Have a nice day!
Images: GOOD/YouTube (2)