Pity the poor vampire squid: it’s saddled with a fearsome name and unjust comparisons to Goldman Sachs, when it’s actually quite docile. Researchers have only recently deduced the vampire squid’s diet, which, given that the creature's full name means "vampire squid from hell," should probably include something horrific.
But it turns out that instead of sucking on fish blood, the vampire squid makes a modest living feeding on bits of dead marine life and other effluvia that floats down to the lower depths of the sea.
Vampire squids aren’t the only creatures that seem like horrific nightmare-fuel at first glance, only to be mild-mannered in truth. In nature, looks are often deceiving.
Consider the tarantula: a large, hairy spider – or rather, a group of 900 kinds of large hairy spiders -- that is practically guaranteed to induce screaming heebies and jeebies in most people.
But tarantulas are dangerous only to their prey – generally small insects. Even the Goliath bird-eater, the second-largest spider in the world, is a relatively nonthreatening arachnid. All tarantulas have fangs that can pierce human skin, but they only bite when threatened, and the effects of tarantula venom are only about as serious as a bee sting.
The basking shark, the second-largest fish in existence, may look ferocious with its gaping maw, but don’t be alarmed if you see one bearing down on you while you’re scuba-diving. This filter-feeder is looking to snack on plankton, not humans.
Tailless whip scorpions, also known as amblypygi, are cousins to spiders, belonging to the same class, Arachnida. They may look like the product of a wild night between a cockroach and a crab, but these creatures are shy, preferring to scurry away from danger. And despite having fearsome looking pincers, amblypygi do not produce venom.
In a similar vein, sun scorpions suffers from comparisons to more venomous relatives. Also known as camel spiders, these spider-like creatures have powerful jaws that can deliver a painful bite if a human threatens it -- another reason to check your shoes before putting them on if you're on a desert vacation. But like tailless whip scorpions, sun scorpions do not produce any poison.
Image Credits: Vampire squid: MBARI; Tarantula: Wikimedia Commons/César Guadarrama; Basking shark: Wikimedia Commons/Greg Skomal; Tailless whip scorpion: Wikimedia Commons/Notafly; Sun scorpion: Wikimedia Commons/Kedddy