Throughout the process of creation, mother nature has provided many clues for both humans and animals. Certain things aren’t safe for us to eat, touch, or otherwise mess with, and if we pay attention, we can see this pretty clearly.
One of the ways this is quite obvious is through the anatomy of certain animals. Horns, stingers, or spines give us the message to stay away or risk getting hurt — or worse. Another of these warnings involves an animal’s color.
Brightly colored animals are that way for a reason, and it’s usually a good idea to pay attention. They might be poisonous, venomous, aggressive, or have any number of characteristics that can do harm to humans and animals alike.
In that vein, read on for the top 12 dangerous red animals. Though you’ll undoubtedly know some of them, there may be a few that surprise you. No worries, you can thank me later!
1. Black Widow
Though the red on this dangerous lady is minimal, it’s the aspect of her that makes her famous. Thankfully, she’s usually found hanging upside down in her web, making the red hourglass-shaped marking on her belly pretty easy to see. When you do, give her some space — the Black Widow spider is not one to be messed with!
This mostly black spider does not actually eat her mate, despite common perception. She will eat other spiders, however, so it may not be such a bad thing to have her around, though most people would rather not! Black Widows are most commonly found in quiet, dark places in North America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia.
A bite from a female Black Widow can cause nerve damage, swelling, and intense pain, though it’s highly unlikely to be fatal to humans. However, it’s still not a fun experience, and requires medical attention to prevent infection (or the spread of nerve damage). Black Widow venom is said to be more powerful than a Rattle Snake’s, but thankfully she’s just too little to deliver very much with one bite. Phew!
2. Red Lionfish
Exotic, beautiful, and armed with 18 venomous spines, the Red Lionfish is no one’s dinner (well, that’s the idea, anyway). Another genius move by mother nature to deter predators, these guys are ready to deliver a powerful sting to protect themselves. This doesn’t always work, as sharks and other large fish often snap them up, but you can’t blame them for trying!
Native to the Indian Ocean and South Pacific Ocean, Lionfish are actually quite the invasive species. They can be found in oceans all over the world and pose a threat to the coral reefs of the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and even the Atlantic. Marine biologists are working to minimize their impact on these areas, but it’s no easy task.
Due to their powerful venom, it’s not a wise decision to eat these spiny little guys. Though their stings are intensely painful and should be avoided at all costs, they’re unlikely to be fatal. Like with any venomous animal sting, staying calm and finding help as soon as possible will minimize the discomfort.
3. Western Red Scorpion Fish
The Western Red Scorpion Fish blends in with its surroundings for hunting purposes. It’s an excellent ambush predator, fooling its prey by looking like part of the ocean floor. This design is great for the Western Red Scorpion Fish, as it basically ensures he’ll always catch his next meal. Not so great for anyone who steps on him, though!
These guys are found on the southwestern coast of Australia, where the reefs and prey fish are plentiful. They can easily be mistaken for coral — even by experienced divers — so it’s important to watch out for them when traversing the waters of this area. They eat the crustaceans, snails, and smaller fish that hang around the reefs, and they’re often lying in wait for food.
The Western Red Scorpion Fish sting causes serious pain and swelling, and the venom can spread if not treated quickly. Best to avoid them all together, I’d say. Though they’re one of the most venomous fish in the world, people actually eat these guys — in fact, they’re known as a delicacy!
4. Siamese Fighting Fish
Tiny but mighty, the Siamese Fighting Fish is a beautiful sight to behold. Their fan-like fins flare up at the sight of a threat, making them appear much bigger than they are. They’re known for their inability to tolerate other fish, and their aggressive attack style. Though they can be found in multiple colors, their bright-red hue is the one they’re most famous for (and makes them a contender for this list).
Sadly, Siamese Fighting Fish were originally domesticated in their native country of Thailand in order to be pitted against each other in arranged fights, which onlookers would place bets on. These guys are dangerous when males are placed in a tank together, but they can actually coexist quite peacefully in an aquarium setting that doesn’t include others of the same species and gender.
Many people assume that they need to be the only fish in the tank due to their aggressive nature, but this is actually not true. Many Siamese Fighting Fish experience depression and frustration when living alone and need sufficient enrichment in their environment to keep them happy. Other names for the Siamese Fighting Fish include Betta Fish, Japanese Fighting Fish, and Labyrinth Fish.
5. Strawberry Poison Dart Frog
Though they’re super small and adorable, the Strawberry Poison Dart Frog actually packs a powerful punch in the poison department. Their red bodies with black spots make them look like a strawberry with legs, but they’re anything but tasty. They secrete a dangerous toxin from their skin, making any predator that tries to pick them up regret it — but their bright color is designed to stop that from happening in the first place.
There are over 100 species of Poison Dart Frog, who were given their name by tribes that used their toxin to make poisonous darts. Funnily, these little guys aren’t poisonous when bred in captivity, as they get their toxin from the food they eat in the wild — which mostly consists of various insect species that are also poisonous. Strawberry Poison Dart Frogs taste terrible to predators and are even too toxic to touch. Their poison causes nausea, severe swelling, and even muscle paralysis!
A fun fact about Poison Dart Frogs in general is their sweet nature regarding their babies. They endure the arduous task of carrying their eggs up into tall trees one at a time, dropping them in tiny pools of water, and checking on them regularly until they hatch. Talk about dedicated parenting!
6. Fire Ants
Though one of these little guys won’t do much harm on their own, Fire Ants tend to travel with a posse and can inflict some serious pain. Named for the burning sensation left by their sting, these are an aggressive species of ant that can cause major issues for crop farmers or pet owners when they nest on the property. Disturbing a Fire Ant nest is akin to stepping on a beehive: they swarm like crazy, sting their intruder repeatedly, and there are thousands of them!
Fire Ant venom can be fatal to animals in large amounts and has been known to cause anaphylactic shock in humans. Their sting injects venom repeatedly while they hold on with their mandibles (bug jaws) and causes the skin to raise into painful welts at the sting site. Fire Ants are most common in the summer months and are usually found in the subtropical southeastern US, in areas like Louisiana, Georgia, New Mexico, and Mississippi, to name a few.
These guys are actually an imported species, with the variation that’s in the US originating in South America. They also inhabit other areas of the world, like Eastern Australia, Taiwan, and China. New Zealand has had their share of Fire Ants, too, but has eliminated them. I wonder what they knew that we didn’t?
7. Humboldt Squid
Though they can change color at will, these guys are called red devils for their rusty red coloring — as well as their bad attitude. Known for attacking divers as well as surfers when they rarely migrate through shallower waters, the Humboldt Squid is one dangerous cephalopod. Their aggressiveness is actually just the result of a huge appetite, as they need to consume large amounts of food to withstand their super-fast growth rate.
Humboldt Squid were named for the current in the East Pacific Ocean where they were first discovered. They were once only found between the deep waters of Peru and Chile, but they’ve expanded their travels all the way up to Alaska in recent years. These guys are known as one of the largest squids in the world, reaching lengths of at least four feet — plus another foot or so if you include their tentacles.
The Humboldt Squid’s color-changing behavior is thought to be for two purposes: to communicate with other squids, and to warn away predators. They only live for about a year, which is why they grow so fast. Because of this they’re always hungry — and can consume entire schools of fish in one feeding. Luckily, these guys usually hang out in waters that are too deep for most swimmers!
8. Indian Red Scorpion
So far on this list, we’ve discussed dangerous red animals that pose a threat, but aren’t necessarily lethal. Not so with the Indian Red Scorpion, who has been deemed the most venomous scorpion in the world. While not always completely red — they can be grey, brown, and orange, too. The tell-tale characteristic of an Indian Red Scorpion is their bright red-orange tail and pincers; nature’s way of warning humans and animals alike to keep well clear.
Though their intended prey is usually insects, small invertebrates, and occasionally lizards, the fact that Indian Red Scorpions live in close proximity to humans is what makes them such a threat. Their defense mechanism is to use their powerful, venom-inflicting stinger, which causes cardiovascular issues and blocks potassium production. These effects can lead to death within 3 days if not treated. Yikes!
Indian Red Scorpions are native to India, but can also be found in Sri Lanka, Nepal, and Pakistan. Their chosen habitat being so remote (and far away from medical care) is what makes them the most dangerous — not getting immediate treatment is the main reason for fatal cases. Even though the stings to humans are usually accidental, this is not an arachnid that I’d want to mess with!
9. Assassin Bug
With the word “assassin” in its name, it’s easy to see why this little guy made the list. While the Assassin Bug is mostly just dangerous to its prey, it’s not fun to be bitten by one if you’re human, either. Named for the violent way they “stab” their prey multiple times before devouring it, their weapon of choice — the beak — is actually not used for self-defense. Though it might feel more like a sting if you aggravate one, that’s actually the Assassin Bug biting you.
Assassin Bugs are actually quite beneficial to have in your garden, provided you leave them be. This is because they help keep the pest population at bay, allowing your plants to live long, healthy lives. They’re not picky about what they eat, and their favorite foods include multiple insect species, from tiny aphids to bigger pests like caterpillars, so your garden is a safe place in their hands — for the plants, anyway!
There are over 100 species of Assassin Bug found across the western, mid-western, and southern US, with one variety being responsible for the spread of the dangerous Chagas virus — though that one’s the wrong color to be on this list. While not all Assassin Bugs are red, at least those that are can be spotted easily by the human eye, so you can steer clear of this dangerous little guy!
10. California Rough-Skinned Newt
If you’re ever out hiking or exploring creeks in California, you’d be smart to keep an eye out for one of these guys. The California Rough-Skinned Newt is an ordinary looking fellow, until you flip him over and notice his bright red-orange belly. They can be reddish brown all over, too, but they’re more commonly found to be brown or grey, with their tell-tale belly and bumpy skin being the main identifying factors.
Though innocent enough to look at, ingesting their poison can be lethal to animals, and humans may not fare too well, either. California Rough-Skinned Newts secrete a deadly neurotoxin — the same one found in the pufferfish and the harlequin frog — that can be absorbed into small cuts on the skin, so touching them bears its own risk. However, eating them is the most likely way to meet an untimely demise, which thankfully not many humans will try to do!
California Rough-Skinned Newts can be found all over California, in wooded areas and grasslands, as well as water sources like rivers and creeks. They’re pretty fast, and will likely get away before you catch them (especially in water), but be wary if you do. Simply picking them up risks exposure to their poison, which is reason enough to leave these guys alone!
11. Coral Snake
Known for their beautiful, banded markings in black, white (or yellow), and red, the Coral Snake is a member of the Cobra family. There are multiple variations of this snake in several regions of the world, with their colors and patterns being different depending on location, but they all have one thing in common: their highly potent venom. Coral Snakes can be found in places like the southern and southwestern US, Mexico, and most of Central and South America.
They’re not an especially large snake — usually growing to a maximum of about 6 feet — but their bite delivers quite a blow. Coral Snakes have the second most potent venom in the world, being outranked only by the Black Mamba. Thankfully, their delivery system is on the weaker side, as their fangs are smaller than other venomous snakes. However, that hasn’t stopped them from inflicting severe pain and the occasional heart attack on humans!
There are several other species of snake who mimic the Coral Snake as a way to keep themselves safe from predators, like the Milk Snake and Scarlet King Snake. Though it may be one of the non-venomous varieties, it’s a wise idea to avoid touching or aggravating snakes if you don’t know their species — especially when their head looks just like their tail the way Coral Snake’s do!
12. Amazon Tree Boa
While their coloring can vary from brown to orange to red, the Amazon Tree Boa deserves a mention here, too. These snakes are constrictors, meaning they squeeze the life out of their prey. Ouch! Though they’re not venomous and their bite would be more of a nuisance than a concern, these guys can still inflict some pretty serious damage, and they have the personality to match their fiery hue.
As their name suggests, Amazon Tree Boas are known as arboreal — or a term for tree-dwelling species. They frequent the jungles of tropical areas like Brazil, the Guianas, and of course, the Amazon rainforest. They love humidity, as well as feasting on a variety of prey, like bats, rats, lizards, frogs, and sometimes insects. They hang from the branches of trees until their next meal comes along, making them the perfect ambush hunter.
Amazon Tree Boas are often kept as pets but take warning: these guys are not for the faint of heart. They’re known for being defensive, aggressive, and quick to bite, especially when they’re not handled regularly. Though beautiful to look at, I’d say they belong in the wild — but that’s just my inner conservationist talking!