Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles As humans we often like to think of ourselves at the top of the food chain. However, this has not always been the case, and even today that is not necessarily true in some environments. We are going to look at 13 of the most dangerous animals in history, and how they shaped human evolution. You are about to go on a journey through jungles with cats the size of small cars, and lagoons full of crocodiles with jaws that could swallow you whole. The saying goes: “Lions, tigers, and bears, oh my!” But those creatures are nothing compared to the animals we have on this list. The first few animals will come as little surprise to you, but you have no idea what's in store after that. We will be starting with leopards as number 13 on our list. Remember that the human species evolved in Africa between 200,000 and 300,000 years ago, while our early ancestors lived in Africa millions of years before that. This means that some of the animals in Africa evolved to hunt and eat early humans. That is why many of the most dangerous animals in history can be found in Africa. What makes leopards so dangerous to humans is their abilities to climb trees. In early human history our ancestors climbed trees to get away from predators, unfortunately in the case of the leopard, the predator followed them right up said tree. For early humans there was no place to hide from these stealthy cats. Another advantage the leopard had over humans was its speed and ability to carry a lot of weight in its jaws. Hunting and eating humans was not a problem for leopards, even if we scurried up a tree it could follow us, kill us, and easily carry our body back down the tree to be eaten. Or if the leopard was feeling particularly lazy, it would just eat the human up in the tree. When we look at leopards' eating habits today, one study attributed 70% of all baboon deaths to African leopards. In terms of early human evolution we were not all that different from baboons, which probably indicates leopards were just as skilled at killing us as baboons. For our next animal you may not be surprised, but you will probably feel a little betrayed. Our 12th most dangerous animal in history is the wolf. The creatures that we domesticated to be our best friends were incredibly efficient at tracking and killing humans in the past. Although uncommon, there are still people attacked by wolves even today. When it is cold, and food is scarce, we can make a delicious snack for these four legged hunters. One of the reasons wolves were, and still are, so dangerous to humans is because of their hunting methods. Their ability to track their prey long distances allows them to find even the smartest human. They hunt in packs, so in the past if a human was caught out in the forest alone, they may have quickly found themselves completely surrounded by a hungry group of wolves. At that point there would be literally nothing the human could do, other than accepting their fate as the next meal for the hungry pack. It is true that our most lovable dogs today were domesticated from wolves. Even the chihuahua and bulldog were once ferocious human eating animals. Granted, in the past they were built like the deadly, intelligent, wolves we see today. It wasn't until humans started using tools and fire that we were able to calm the wild beast within the wolf and make them our best friends. If you have Ophidiophobia it is most likely because of how dangerous our 11th animal is. Ophidiophobia, or the fear of snakes, is practically ingrained in our DNA. This shouldn't come as a surprise since in the past, as today, snakes were one of the most dangerous animals to humans. Not too long ago one rattlesnake bite, or the venom of a cobra, would lead to death. There was no antivenom or hospitals in early human history. If a human stepped on a poisonous snake, that was pretty much it, they would die. However, now we are finding that venomous snakes were not the only dangerous serpents. If you have ever seen the movie Anaconda you know what we're talking about. If not, we highly recommend you go watch Jennifer Lopez and Ice Cube battle these constrictors deep in the Amazon jungle. It is possible that constrictors may have been just as dangerous to humans as venomous snakes; and if not as dangerous, definitely as scary. Anthropologists who study the indigenous peoples of the Amazon today have uncovered evidence that suggests one of the most common causes of death in those populations might be by constrictor snakes. Lets not forget that in the human past we were on average shorter than the human population is today. Constricting snakes on the other hand were larger than their current descendants. This size shift in the past did not bode well for our ancestors. Whether you are afraid of snakes or not, they most certainly were one of the more dangerous animals in human history. Speaking of being afraid of deadly animals, our next one will certainly make you wish you had a bigger boat. Our 10th most deadly animal is the shark. These cartilaginous eating machines are the stuff of nightmares. Sharks have not evolved much over the millennium, because if you are the most badass killing machine in the ocean, there is really no reason to evolve. Between their razor sharp teeth, powerful jaws, and incredible speeds, any human found in the water with one of these animals has slim to no chance of making it out alive. The largest and scariest shark in human history is the great white. On average these sharks are 14 feet long, but can reach over 20 feet. They have up to 300 serrated teeth that can easily cut through any part of the human body. Earlier in our history we did not have the water craft of today. Humans began with dugout canoes or smaller boats made of wood. These crafts could easily have been tipped over by the powerful great whites making humans a great snack. However, the great white may not have been the most deadly shark in human history. That distinction could go to the bull shark. Although they are not quite as large as great whites, bull sharks can get well over 10 feet long and are more than capable of eating a human. One trait that makes bull sharks particularly dangerous is that they can swim in both salt and freshwater. Almost all sharks are restricted to the oceans, so they have to wait until humans come to them. But not bull sharks, they can swim up tributaries and into the fresh water that humans used as a drinking source earlier in history. Imagine going to get a drink of water and all of a sudden a bull shark lurches out of the water at you… you might as well just gather your stuff and move as far from water as possible at that point. The 9th most dangerous animal on our list is the hippopotamus. That's right, the animal that dances around wearing a tutu in Fantasia, is incredibly dangerous to humans. Even today it is estimated that hippos kill around 500 people a year in Africa. That is in the present day, in the past humans had to live much closer to the water sources hippos dwell in, and without the luxury of modern housing structures we have today. This means hippos and humans came in contact much more frequently in the past, leading to more altercations between them. The hippo would always win. Hippopotami do not eat humans. The reason they are so dangerous is because they are territorial and aggressive. They have incredibly sharp teeth and powerful jaws. Hippos of the past, and today, do not want to eat humans; they just want them out of their area, so they are happy to chase them away. The problem is hippos are faster than you would expect, and when a human finds themself under the weight of a 3000 pound hippo, they normally don't make it out alive. We are now at the end of the more obvious culprits for most dangerous animals in history. From here on out you might find yourself surprised; especially because our next animal is a dragon! The Komodo dragon is the 8th most dangerous animal on our list. Obviously the Komodo dragon is not a fire breathing, flying, reptile from the stuff of legends, but it is incredibly dangerous to anybody that comes across one. These dragons weigh up to 300 pounds and can easily outrun a human on open terrain. Their jaws are filled with pointed teeth that make quick work of flesh and bones. But, it is not the teeth that makes their bite so dangerous. If a human comes across a hungry Komodo, and gets bit, the dragon will inject venom into them. Then if the human makes it out of the death grip of the Komodo dragon's jaws, the venom will slowly paralyze them until they can't move and the Komodo can finish the job. In human history if someone found themselves face to face with a Komodo dragon they would have to hope their fight or flight response would immediately tell them to run for their life. Unfortunately for early humans, running would not help them escape from our next animal, because it can fly. The 7th most dangerous animal in history is the eagle. The same type of bird that is the emblem of freedom for the United States, may have been one of the most dangerous animals in human history. Eagles are particularly dangerous to human children because of their smaller size. Early human skulls have been uncovered in South Africa that were clearly associated with an eagle killing. Such skulls have been found near eagle nests with holes punched into their eye sockets by the bird's talons. Early humans didn't just need to keep a close watch on the ground and horizon, but in the skies as well. Even today we see that in some parts of Africa primates make up around 90% of eagles' diets. It wasn't that long ago in human history where we would not have had the ability to protect our young from hungry eagles swooping down from overhead. And if you thought eagles being on our list of most dangerous animals in history was crazy, you won't believe this next animal. Our 6th most deadly animal is actually... other primates. Our most closely related ancestors in the animal kingdom may have been some of our most dangerous predators. We like to think of ourselves as evolved far beyond all other animals on the planet, but we share about 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees. Like humans, other primates eat meat. Sometimes if early humans crossed paths with other primates, a battle for survival would ensue. Primates do not seem to care how closely related they are to other species if they can eat them. Today we see chimps in Uganda eat colobus monkeys. Both are primates, but the chimps don't care. There is no reason to suspect that if a troop of chimps came across a human early in our history, and they were hungry enough, the chimps would not attack and eat that human. This behavior of primate on primate predation is not uncommon, we see it in Orangutans and other primates as well. Now we are going to get into some of the most dangerous animals that you may have never heard of. Our 5th most dangerous animal are hyenas, however, not the ones you are familiar with. There have been as many as 100 different hyena species living at the same times as humans. One species in particular was exceptionally deadly. This hyena was called Pachycrocuta. It was the size of a lion. Imagine a cackling hyena the size of a lion in front of you; scary right? Well this creature was more than capable of stalking and eating a full grown human adult. Pachycrocuta had a mouth large enough to fully envelope a human's head. They were also fast and fierce. There was little possibility of outrunning Pachycrocuta. The human could climb up a tree, but would have to hope that the giant hyena couldn't knock it over. Even if the tree could hold up against Pachycrocuta, it would just wait. Hyenas are known to be incredibly resilient and resourceful. One way or the other, Pachycrocuta would get its human prey. A recent fossil dig uncovered a large mound of skulls from human ancestors in a waste pile that most likely belonged to Pachycrocuta. This means early humans were definitely on the menu for this monster. You have probably been waiting for this next deadly animal, as it is a predator we all learned about as kids. The saber-toothed tiger was a ferocious hunter and the 4th most deadly animal on our list. Everyone can picture its two oversized teeth hanging from its upper jaw. But there are facts about this predator you may not be aware of. There were actually several species of saber-toothed cats. Some could weigh up to 600 pounds. Their canine blade-like teeth were actually serrated on both edges, making it easier to slice chunks of meat off its prey. Perhaps the scariest thing about the saber-toothed cats was the jaw gape. The saber-toothed cat could open its mouth to around 130 degrees. Most modern large cats can only open their jaws to aout 65 degrees. The wide jaw gape of a saber-toothed cat was necessary for it to get food past their long canine teeth. Early humans that were pinned to the ground by the massive paws of a saber-toothed cat, and had to stare into the wide opened maw of the predator just before it came down on them, were most likely scared to death before the saber-tooth even got its jaws around them. Speaking of jaws, our next animal has the most powerful jaws in the animal kingdom. The 3rd most dangerous animal in history is the crocodile. One species in particular was recently found in Kenya where many early human fossils have been located. Unfortunately for our ancestors, they had to contend with a crocodile named Crocodylus anthropophagus. The name literally means “human-eating.” It was called this because remains of our early ancestors were discovered not far from the crocodile skeleton, suggesting that before the crocodile passed away, it had our ancestors as its last meal. The Crocodylus anthropophagus was around 24 feet long with massive teeth, and jaws that could crush a human in a split second. If an early human ancestor got too close to a water hole where this crocodile lurked, they would be swallowed in one gulp, never to be heard from again. Early human history was a treacherous time. Going anywhere near the water seemed to be a dangerous venture that could cost someone their life. Our last two animals are just as deadly today as they were in the past. The most deadly animal in the world to humans, and number 2 on our list, is the mosquito. Mosquitoes kill over a million people a year and billions of people over the course of human history. Sure, mosquitoes are annoying, but they are also the most deadly animal to humans of the past and of the present. Mosquitoes transmit diseases such as malaria, yellow fever, and dengue to humans, all of which can be fatal.