From the depths of the ocean to the rainforests of Amazon, every place on this planet teeming is with life, however small it may be. One of these environments is the swamp which is basically a forested wetland found in an area of low elevation. They are usually present along large rivers since their entire eco system depends on the fluctuations in the water level. Because of this, swamps are some of the most biodiverse areas on the planet, often harbouring a variety of creatures ranging all the way from small insects like dragon-flies to giant reptiles like the alligator.
Throughout the years, swamps have been the subject of numerous horror stories with tales of swamp monsters and what not. While most of these are not entirely true, there is no doubt that swamps are still home to some of the most scariest creatures in the world. So, in order to understand some of the myths and as an homage to the horror stories, we have compiled a list of 15 of the creepiest creatures that lurk in swamps.
There are three different ways of spelling the name of this creature but we’ll to Mata Mata here. They are a type of freshwater turtle found in, you guessed it, South America along the Amazon and Orinoco basins. Take one look at this creature and you will probably end up believing it to be from the Jurassic era.
They have a large and triangular head complete with a horn on their snout and they can easily weigh more than 15 kg. They normally feed on fish and can easily blend in their environment since the shell resembles bark and their head can resemble fallen leaves. As the fish gets closer, the mata mata can open its large mouth to create a vacuum which sucks the prey in. As the mouth shuts, it expels all the excess water and the fish is swallowed whole.
Scorpions are known to survive in a number of different climates and regions, from damp marshy areas to dry deserts. Out of their species, 25 are known to be the most venomous, capable of killing humans and inhabiting areas in North Africa, the Middle East, Mexico and certain parts of South America.
Their large pincers are covered with sensitive hair, which upon contact with a prey can be used to grab it. The scorpion can then either crush its prey or inject it with highly neurotoxic venom/ The can either kill or paralyze the prey, making it easy for the scorpion to consume it. Their slow metabolic rate makes it easy for them to survive without food, with some species even known to survive 6 to 12 months of starvation.
An arapaima in simple words is one of the largest freshwater fish with armor like scales that are even immune to piranha attacks. They can grow up to a whopping 15 feet in length and can weigh almost 100 kg.
Although they feed primarily on smaller fish and crustaceans, in some cases they are also known to strike down small animals that appear to be near the shore. According to a case on River Monsters, a large arapaima was responsible was drowning a small boy after it was hooked on the fishing line. This goes on to show just how powerful these creatures are. They are also responsible for taking over piranha territory and driving them away, forcing the smaller fish to be more aggressive to other creatures as a result.
If there is one creature that you should be scared of when visiting the swamps, then that would be the alligator. An adult American alligator can grow up to 4.4 meters (14 ft) in length and weigh well over 450 kg (990 lb). They are native only to the United States and China and are usually found in freshwater environments like ponds, marshes, and swamps.
Even though alligators have a heavy body, they are still capable of short bursts of speed to capture prey. They are perfectly capable of killing larger prey by grabbing it and then performing a death roll during which bite-sized chunks are torn off. They usually tend to avoid humans but will definitely attack if provoked. This is why it is illegal in Florida to feed wild alligators as this can cause them to lose their fear of humans, eventually associating us with food.
This list wouldn’t be complete without mentioning these guys and we’re pretty sure that a lot of you already this coming. No other snake is more intimidating than the great anaconda. They are easily capable of reaching lengths of over 30 feet and can weigh more than 500 pounds, effectively making them the largest snake species in the world.
The good news is that they are not venomous, the bad news? Well, they can use their sheer muscle power to constrict their prey and then swallow it whole regardless of its size. They often lurk in stealthily in the water, mostly swamps and marshes while patiently waiting for their prey. The unfortunate victims end up being jaguars, deer, wild pigs and sometimes even humans.
A close relative of the alligators, these reptiles also inhabit the marshes and swamps around Central and South America. They are relatively small sized as compared to their bigger and heavier cousins, weighing somewhere between 6 kg to 40 kg depending on their species.
Although they can often be confused as alligators, a few defining features such as the lack of a bony septum between the nostrils and longer, more slender teeth can help differentiate the caimans from alligators. Their diet mostly consists of fish, birds and small mammals but they are also extremely ferocious creatures and can attack humans if given the chance.
9. Snapping Turtle
These creatures are plain nasty and are known to bite toes off if somebody accidentally steps on them in the water. They can be difficult to spot in water since they usually lurk around swampy areas and like to hide themselves in underwater sediment.
Snapping turtles usually feed on both plants and smaller animals like fish, frogs and even birds on occasion. Their neck is quite flexible, even capable of biting if they’re picked up by the sides of their shell. They have also pretty sharp claws, however, these cannot be used for attacking and are only capable of digging or gripping. When threatened, the turtle will make a hissing sound, giving a warning that it is not a creature that should be messed around with.
8. Diving Bell Spider
While there are a lot of creepy things that lurk beneath the surface of the water near swamps, at least the spider isn’t one of them, right? Wrong, because it seems as if spiders have decided to also inhabit the one place which you thought you would be safe from them. The diving bell spider, also called the water spider is known to spend almost all its life under water.
They are able to survive in aquatic environments due to the construction of a silk-based structure resembling a diving bell, hence the name, which is capable of retaining oxygen necessary for the spider’s survival. While they usually prey on small water insects and larvae, a bite from one of these can be quite painful and result in swelling and fever.
7. Red-Bellied Piranha
If there is anything that Hollywood has taught us about Piranhas, it’s that they will absolutely devour everything in their path during “feeding frenzies” where schools of them swarm the prey and strip all flesh from its bones. While some of these can be quite exaggerated, they are still nothing to mess around with.
Even though they are a freshwater fish, they can also be found in flooded forest areas like swamps throughout the Brazilian Amazon. During an episode of River Monsters, Jeremy Wade came across a case where a man’s face had been bitten off by something in the water. Upon further investigation, he discovered that the attack was done by a school of red-bellied piranhas which had become more aggressive than normal ones. If you believe that this is terrifying, then you’re in for a big surprise because out next entry is quite shocking, literally.
6. Electric EEL
While this one is not an actual eel but a type of knifefish, it is still capable of generating more than 600 volts of electricity from its body. Yes, you read that correct, the shock is 5 times stronger than the one that you’d get from a wall socket.
It is mostly used by the eel in short bursts to stun its prey, however, it is also known for releasing much stronger shocks over a period of minutes if it feels threatened. They are only found in South America, inhabiting swamps and creeks along the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers. The locals usually avoid these creatures since eels can shock humans even 8 hours after their death.
5. Goliath Bird Eating Spider
As if the name wasn’t scary enough, this arachnid, also known as the Goliath Birdeater is the largest spider in the world by mass and size. It is native to the rainforest regions of South America and is commonly found in marshy and swampy areas.
It does prey on birds as the name suggests but that only happens very rarely. They also only bite humans in self-defense and their venom is quite harmless, the effects of which is usually comparable to that of a wasp’s sting. However, this still doesn’t make it any less horrifying though and we would not want to run into one of these, perhaps, ever.
4. Giant Centipede
This here is the stuff of nightmares. These carnivorous invertebrates are equipped with extremely sharp claws and a few of their species such as the Amazonian Giant Centipede can grow up to almost 30 centimeters in length.
Their favorite habitat is around damp areas so swamps prove to be an excellent location for them to hunt in. Most of their prey consists of lizards and small birds to frogs and even snakes. Their sharp claws can also be used to inject highly toxic venom that is capable of killing most small animals within minutes. While the venom is not fatal to humans, it can cause a fair amount of pain, swelling, and fever if you’re unlucky enough to be bitten by one of these.
Panthers, often times also known as cougars prefer to survive in the dense underbrush areas which also include swamps. They are some of the biggest predators in these areas after the alligator and can weigh up to 72 kg (159 lb). While that might not be a lot, they are extremely agile and stealthy when it comes to hunting for prey.
Their diet normally consists of both small animals like rodents to larger prey like the wild-tailed deer and pigs. They have also been known to prey on livestock even going as far as attacking horses. Although fatal attacks on humans are not as common, the number of these has still gradually been increasing over the years probably because of the fact that more people are entering the territories of these animals.
2. Water Moccasin
As if the giant anaconda wasn’t enough, the water moccasin, sometimes also known as the cottonmouth is the only semi-aquatic species of the pit viper in the world. Because of this, it is usually found in shallow lakes and swamps, however, they are very strong swimmers and are even known to enter the sea.
The adult water moccasins are easily capable of delivering potentially fatal bites to humans and are known for their aggression when threatened. A water moccasin will usually stand its ground by coiling the body and then displaying its fangs. They normally feed on fish, birds, other snakes and even small alligators.
After reading about all of the creepy creatures above, you must be wondering why this tiny fish is at the top of this list. Well, allow us to explain. The candiru, also known as the toothpick fish is a type of parasitic freshwater catfish that is famous for penetrating the gill of another fish and then sucking on its blood.
How is that a threat to humans then you ask? Unfortunately, the Candiru is unable to distinguish between a human genital or a fish. This is why they are known to climb into the exposed urethra of a person urinating in the river. Once they enter, they can erect two backward facing spine like structures which makes it impossible to remove them, causing a great deal of pain. The only way to then get it out is either through surgery or by a combination of herbs developed by the locals.
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