You just can’t look away.
This year our eyes were riveted to videos of animals at their wildest—and grossest. From the python that tried to swallow an antelope to the roach that bolted through a crevice the size of a dozen grains of salt, National Geographic got an inside look at nature in the raw.
So watch if you dare, and vote at the end of the story for the grossest of the gross this year.
5) SPIDER DRAGS MOUSE AROUND HOUSE
Jason Womal was heading out the door for work in October when his neighbor called him over to see “something cool.”
The something cool turned out to be this giant huntsman spider hauling a dead mouse through the neighbor’s kitchen in Coppabella, Australia. More horrifying was that the spider was able to drag the mouse while navigating the sheer vertical surface of a refrigerator.
Australia has 94 species of huntsman spiders, which are large, hairy, and known for terrifying people by “scuttling out from behind curtains,” according to the Australian National Museum.
4) ROACHES RUN WHILE SQUISHED
Cockroaches can wriggle through a crack the height of two stacked pennies in under a second, shrug off being squished by 900 times their body weight, and run at speeds equivalent to a human sprinting 200 miles per hour.
And if that doesn’t have you squirming, scientists captured it all on video. After building a roach-squishing machine (no roaches were injured) and a series of tiny tunnels, Berkeley scientists filmed American cockroaches pushing themselves through crevices and running at nearly top speed—while squished.
The purpose behind all this roach-squishing might freak you out, too. The researchers are building robots that mimic cockroaches, with jointed exoskeletons that allow them to squeeze through small spaces. So, someday you might be rescued from a tight spot by a roach-bot.
3) PYTHON EATS, VOMITS UP ANTELOPE
This poor python in Gorakhpur, India, lost his lunch. And quite a lunch it was.
The snake, possibly a Burmese python, was trying to eat an entire antelope when a crowd began to gather. Stressed by the humans, the snake regurgitated the partly digested antelope.
Snakes often vomit up a heavy meal if they need to make a speedy escape. And some snakes eat huge dinners just a few times a year, so missing a meal could spell big trouble.
The moral of the story: Leave snakes alone.
2) TOAD GETS ENTIRELY TOO FREAKY
Some animals are gross because they’re confused.
During mating season, toads are known to grasp onto anything that resembles a viable mate—including dead toads. This behavior was caught underwater in Italy in the clip seen above, but the ghastly mistake can happen on land, too. In April, biologists in India spotted a male common Asian toad on a road trying to mate with a female that had died as roadkill. Most likely, he was attracted by pheromone chemicals that the female was secreting before she died.
Other kinds of animals have been reported to mistakenly try to breed with the dead, or even with inanimate objects. Male jewel beetles in Australia have been seen attempting coitus with discarded beer bottles with bumps resembling the dimpled brown wings of female beetles. The males have evolved to select that biggest female they can find, so the bottles presumably look like the sexiest women alive.
This wasted effort creates what biologists call an “evolutionary trap,” meaning that a behavior that once boosted the animal’s chances of reproducing has backfired in a new situation.
1) INSIDE A VULTURE FEEDING FRENZY
An exclusive video made by a National Geographic photographer gave an unusual perspective on vultures: the view from inside a carcass.
Award-winning photojurnalist Charlie Hamilton James shot the video for a January National Geographic magazine story about vultures and their dwindling numbers worldwide. (See “Vultures Are Revolting. Here’s Why We Need to Save Them.”)
To get the video, he first tried placing the camera near the head of a dead wildebeest. Vultures are smart, observant birds, and they rushed to the carcass only to stop a few feet away from the camera. They refused to go near it.
He then tried putting the camera in a a papier–mâché wildebeest skull, followed by a fake tree stump. Again, no luck. Finally, Hamilton Jones rigged a small video camera and stuffed it inside a dead zebra—and got the first-ever look at a vulture feeding frenzy from the inside out.
“I love vultures,“ James said, “and not just because they’re charismatic, intelligent, and physiologically incredible.”
“No, I love vultures in a really sick way too. What they do when they feed on a carcass is repulsive but—let’s face it—it makes for fascinating viewing.”
We agree. This video, and all the others topping our gross-out list, remind us why we’re drawn to weird and even gross things.
It’s the thrill of the truly wild.