10 of the World's Scariest-Looking Animals

Tapeworm (Cestoda)
Tapeworm (Cestoda). Science Picture Co / Getty Images

The animal kingdom is full of cute and cuddly creatures. Some animals however, do not fit this description. These scary-looking animals from biomes on land and sea often have a chilling effect at first glance. Some have sharp fangs and teeth, some are parasites, and some look terrifying but are actually harmless.

Key Takeaways

  • These animals range from parasitic to being quite harmless in spite of their scary looks.
  • The white-shouldered bat gets its name from white patches on its shoulder. Despite how they look, these bats don't pose any threat to humans as they eat mostly insects and fruit.
  • Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that may infect animals and people. Tapeworms can be quite harmful to people. People usually get infected by eating undercooked meat from an already infected animal.
  • One of the largest spiders in the world is the Goliath bird-eater spider. They are tarantulas and can bite humans. Fortunately their venom is not deadly.

The Black Dragonfish

Dragonfish (Idiacanthus antrostomus) with light-producing organ beneath mouth called barbel. This lure attracts prey close so the fish can lunge forward and grab a meal. Mark Conlin/Oxford Scientific/Getty Images

Black dragonfish are a type of bioluminescent fish that live in deep ocean waters. The females of the species have sharp, fang-like teeth and a long barbel that hangs from their chin. The barbel contains photophores, which produce light and act as a lure to attract prey. Adult female dragonfish can reach lengths of around 2 feet and have an eel-like resemblance. The males of the species are much less frightening than the females. They are much smaller than the females, have no teeth or barbel, and only live long enough to mate.

White-Shouldered Bat

Little White-shouldered Bat
Little White-shouldered Bat (Ametrida centurio); Found in South and Central America. MYN /Andrew Snyder/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

White-shouldered bats (Ametrida centurio) are a South and Central American bat species. These small bats have large eyes, a pointed pug nose, and sharp teeth that give them a menacing appearance. Although they may look scary, they don't pose any threat to humans. Their diet consists of insects and fruit found in tropical forests. This bat species gets its name from the white patches found on its shoulders.

Fangtooth Fish

Fangtooth Fish
Fangtooth Fish (Anoplogaster cornuta) close-up of head showing teeth, from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. David Shale/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

Fangtooth fish (Anoplogaster cornuta) are frightening deep sea fish with a large head, sharp fangs and scales. Its bottom fangs are so long that the fish can not close its mouth completely. The fangs fit into pockets on the roof of the fangtooth's mouth when it is closed. The extreme environment of the deep sea makes it difficult for fangtooth fish to find food. Adult fangtooth fish are aggressive hunters that typically suck prey into their mouths and swallow them whole. Their large fangs keep prey, typically fish and shrimp, from escaping their mouths. In spite of their horrifying appearance, these relatively small fish (about 7 inches in length) are no threat to humans.


The tapeworm's scolex (head) attaches to the intestine of the host with the aid of the hooks and suckers seen here. JUAN GARTNER/ Science Photo Library/Getty Images

Tapeworms are parasitic flatworms that live within the digestive system of their hosts. These strange looking organisms have hooks and suckers around their scolex or head, which help them attach to the intestinal wall. Their long segmented body can reach lengths of up to 20 feet. Tapeworms may infect animals and people. People typically become infected by eating the raw or undercooked meat of infected animals. Tapeworm larvae that infect the digestive system grow into adult tapeworms by absorbing nutrition from their host.


Angler Fish
Anglerfish (Melanocetus murrayi) Mid-Atlantic Ridge, North Atlantic Ocean. Anglerfish have sharp teeth and a luminescent bulb that is used to attract prey. David Shale/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

Anglerfish are a type of bioluminescent fish that live in deep ocean waters. The females of the species have a glowing bulb of flesh that hangs down from their head and acts as a lure to attract prey. In some species, the luminescence is the result of chemicals produced by symbiotic bacteria. These gruesome looking fish have an enormous mouth and terrifyingly sharp teeth that are angled inward. Anglerfish can eat prey that are twice their size. The males of the species are much smaller than the females. In some species, the male attaches to the female in order to mate. The male remains attached to and fuses with the female deriving all of its nutrients from the female.

Goliath Bird-Eater Spider

Goliath Bird-eating Spider
Goliath bird-eater spiders are huge tarantulas that eat birds, small mammals, and small reptiles. FLPA/Dembinsky Photo/Corbis Documentary

The Goliath bird-eater spider is one of the largest spiders in the world. These tarantulas use their fangs to capture and inject venom into their prey. The venom dissolves the insides of their prey and the spider sucks up its meal, leaving behind the skin and bones. Goliath bird-eater spiders typically eat small birds, snakes, lizards, and frogs. These large, hairy, formidable looking spiders are aggressive and will attack if they feel threatened. They are capable of using the bristles on their legs to make a loud hissing noise to ward off potential threats. Goliath spiders have been known to bite humans if disturbed, however their venom is not deadly to humans.


Viperfish (Chauliodus sloani), Mid-Atlantic Ridge, North Atlantic Ocean. David Shale/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

Viperfish are a type of bioluminescent deep sea marine fish found in tropical and temperate waters. These fish have sharp, fang-like teeth that they use to spear their prey. Their teeth are so long that they curve behind the viperfish's head when its mouth is closed. Viperfish have a long spine that extends from their dorsal fin. The spine looks like a long pole with a photophore (light producing organ) on the end. The photophore is used to lure prey within striking distance. Photophores are also scattered along the surface of the fish's body. These fish may look ferocious, but their small size makes them no threat to humans.

Giant Deep-Sea Isopod

Giant Isopod
Giant deep-sea isopods are related to crustaceans and can reach lengths of two and a half feet. Solvin Zankl/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images

The Giant deep-sea isopod (Bathynomus giganteus) can reach lengths of up to 2.5 feet. They have a tough, segmented exoskeleton and seven pairs of legs that give them an alien-like appearance. Giant isopods can curl up into a ball as a defense mechanism to protect themselves from predators. These underwater scavengers live on the ocean floor and feed on dead organisms including whales, fish, and squid. They are capable of surviving long periods of time without food and will eat anything slow enough for them to catch.

Lobster Moth Caterpillar

Lobster Moth Caterpillar
Lobster Moth, Stauropus fagi, Caterpillar. Its name is derived from the remarkable crustacean-like appearance of the caterpillar. Robert Pickett/Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

The lobster moth caterpillar has a strange-looking appearance. It derives its name from the fact that its enlarged abdomen resembles a lobster tail. Lobster moth caterpillars are harmless and rely on camouflage or mimicry as a defense mechanism to hide from or confuse potential predators. When threatened, they strike a menacing pose that tricks other animals into confusing them with a venomous spider or other potentially deadly insect.

Star-Nosed Mole

Star-nosed Mole
Star-nosed Mole (Condylura cristata) adult, head and front claws amongst moss. FLPA/Dembinsky Photo/Corbis Documentary

The star-nosed mole (Condylura cristata) is a very unusual looking mammal that gets its name from the star-shaped, fleshy tentacles around its nose. These tentacles are used to feel out their surroundings, identify prey, and prevent soil from entering the animal's nose when digging. Star-nosed moles make their home in the moist soil of temperate forests, marshes, and meadows. These furry animals use the sharp talons on their front feet for digging into the moist soil.

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Bailey, Regina. "10 of the World's Scariest-Looking Animals." ThoughtCo, Sep. 5, 2021, thoughtco.com/the-worlds-scariest-looking-animals-4105205. Bailey, Regina. (2021, September 5). 10 of the World's Scariest-Looking Animals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/the-worlds-scariest-looking-animals-4105205 Bailey, Regina. "10 of the World's Scariest-Looking Animals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/the-worlds-scariest-looking-animals-4105205 (accessed March 21, 2023).