Four of the most skilled animal assassins

These predators have got a very special set of skills to snare themselves a meal


Trapdoor Spider

The trapdoor spider is a cunning creature that uses a burrow, complete with a silk-hinged door and vibration-sensitive lines of silk, to catch its prey. The moment unsuspecting prey triggers the silk alert system, the trapdoor spider pounces out of the burrow and sinks its two sharp fangs in for the kill.

Modus Operandi:

The bodies of trapdoor spiders can measure up to four centimetres (1.5 inches) in length and they are usually brown or black in appearance. They have eight thick legs, eight arms and two sharp fangs to stab down upon their prey. Their bite is non-toxic to humans but deadly to smaller animals. They usually catch prey at night, which can range from beetles to frogs and baby birds. Although not too aggressive, they will rear up and present their fangs if harassed.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 12.45.36
The trapdoor spider is a fearsome predator



Found in rivers and streams across Asia, archerfish can squirt drops of water up to three metres (10 feet) away to knock insects off vegetation. Once the shot is fired with pinpoint accuracy (they almost never miss), the archerfish then pounces upon the insect as it hits the water and devours it.

Modus Operandi:
With their mouths just out of the water but their eyes underneath, archerfish compensate for the refraction of light to locate an insect up to three metres (10 feet) away. Once targeted, it presses its tongue against a groove on the roof its mouth to form a narrow channel. It then contracts its gills, which sends a powerful jet of water shooting out, knocking their target off its perch in a split-second to be grabbed and eaten in the water.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 12.46.41
Archerfish are very skilled at catching prey


Trap-jaw ant

Which animal has the fastest bite? A shark? An alligator? Not quite. When the mandibles of the trap-jaw ant (Odontomachus bauri) are trigged by prey, its mouth snaps shut at up to an incredible 233 kilometres per hour (145 miles per hour). That’s 2,300 times faster than the blink of an eye!

Modus Operandi

These ants are able to open their jaws 180 degrees and lock them in place. Mandibles covered in sensory hairs then extend out from the jaw, and when one of these hairs is triggered by unsuspecting prey (such as a cockroach larva in the picture above) the mouth slams closed with a force 300 times the weight of the ant. The force of the bite can even be used to propel the ant away from danger.

Don't be fooled by this small ant's size
Don’t be fooled by this small ant’s size

Yellow rat snake

A sub-species of rat snake, the yellow rat snake relies on the deadly method of constriction to take out its prey. A less obvious assassin than its constrictor counterparts, this species has a more measured approach to hunting, prowling underground burrows and tunnels for rodents and climbing as high as 60 feet up trees for the perfect meal. Omitting an odorous musk if threatened, the yellow rat snake shakes its tail amongst dead leaves to simulate a rattle.

Modus Operandi:

Powerful constrictors, rat snakes strike their prey and wrap around it, coiling their strong, lean bodies around their victim awaiting their inevitable death. Traditionally it’s believed that while constrictors wrap themselves around their prey, they hold tightly enough to prevent prey breathing in any more air. With every breath the prey takes, the snake’s grip gets tighter leading to death by asphyxia. Newer research has seen some prey die quicker than what this method would allow, and it’s likely that the sheer force of constriction causes such a rise in pressure, leading to immediate cardiac arrest.

Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 12.49.28
The yellow rat snake wraps its body around its prey