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Dangers in the Deep
On land during the day, we humans rule. Or at least we're considered top predators, and with our feet on the ground, we're in our element.
In the sea, sans a boat, forget about it. We're too slow, too encumbered with gear, and often too stupid to be much more than prey. What's to worry about down there? Plenty!
Yes, this list is subjective, but it's based on research aimed at finding the creatures of the deep that conjure the most compelling combination of frightening personas, actual aggression and/or real pain or death to humans. More often than not, pain and death from sea creatures is avoidable, especially in the case of two on this list that inflict most of their damage in home aquariums and restaurants.
Before we continue, a nod to venerable contenders that aren't on the list: killer whales (there are few confirmed attacks, accept by those in captivity), octopuses (yes, they've been known to attack), sea cucumbers (who'da thunk?) and piranhas (which actually live only in freshwater, and whose deadly attacks on people are pure myth).
Box JellyfishSlide 2 of 21
These gelatinous creatures are flat-out deadly.
While no official tallies exist, anecdotal evidence suggest dozens of people and perhaps more than 100 or more die each year from the many species of box jellyfish that exist in all oceans.
Some 20 to 40 people die from stings by box jellyfish annually in the Philippines alone, according to the U.S. National Science Foundation. "But because death certificates are not required in many countries within the range of box jellyfish, worldwide fatalities from box jellyfish may be seriously underestimated," the NSF states.
One Australian box jellyfish can have dozens of tentacles, each up to 15 feet long, with enough toxin to kill 60 people. The sting of a Chironex fleckeri box jellyfish can kill a person in less than three minutes. Species of box jelly fish in Hawaii, Florida and other U.S. locations are known to induce heart failure.
Honorable mention goes to the Portuguese man-of-war, a jellyfish with a sting said to be as painful as a lightning strike — though it's not clear how many people are actually able to make that comparison.Slide 3 of 21
Tiger SharkSlide 4 of 21
Yeah, yeah, the great white shark gets all the attention. But reality is tiger sharks kill more people. And few things (other than snakes) automatically terrify people more than sharks.
Tiger sharks will eat anything: fish, seals, birds, squid, small sharks, dolphins, license plates and pieces of old tires, according to NOAA. They can grow more than 18 feet long and weigh a ton. Take that, Jaws!
Tiger sharks are found in many tropical and temperate waters, and they are especially common around islands in the central Pacific. For the record: Great whites do attack more people each year, on average.
Oh, and a little detail that explains why sharks aren't No. 1 on this list: The number of people attacked by sharks worldwide each year — a few dozen — is roughly equal to the number killedby lightning just in the United States. Only four people around the world died from shark attacks last year.Slide 5 of 21
StonefishSlide 6 of 21
This one nearly tops the list for two reasons: It's the most venomous fish in the world, and it's a master of disguise, hiding in plain sight on the seafloor, looking like any other rock.
The stonefish doesn't attack, but you don't want to step on it. Its spines are used as defense against sharks and other predators. The venom can cause temporary paralysis and death if not treated.Slide 7 of 21
PufferfishSlide 8 of 21