Nature's nastiest beasts on show

AFP
More than 200,000 venomous species live on land, in the air or in the sea – including the huge living spider that welcomes visitors to the museum from inside its tank.
AFP

From a hairy-legged Goliath spider to a 0.7-meter Komodo dragon, a fear-inducing exhibition opens on Friday at London’s Natural History Museum showcasing the world’s most venomous creatures.

More than 200,000 venomous species live on land, in the air or in the sea — including the huge living spider that welcomes visitors to the museum from inside its tank.

“It’s not dangerous, it’s one of the biggest misconceptions. The little spider here is far more dangerous,” explained venom specialist Ronald Jenner, pointing to a tiny “violinist spider,” whose bite can cause necrosis and infection. 

Even cuddly creatures such as the loris, a small primate from Asia with large innocent eyes, are not what they seem, packing poisonous glands on their arms that they lick before biting rivals. 

The show, which runs until May 13, also pays tribute to the masochistic efforts of scientist Justin O. Schmidt, who let himself be stung by more than 80 species to establish a scale of pain. From the relatively mild sting of the red ant, described as “live” and “sudden,” to that of the warlike wasp, which has been called true “torture,” the Schmidt index is given for each species in the exhibition. 

In a gloomy alcove, visitors can hear the chilling testimonies of those who got on the wrong side of toxic beasts, including a woman chased and stung by hundreds of bees, a man bitten by a spearhead, one of the most terrible serpents of central America, and another man attacked by a Russell’s viper in India. 

Ti Gong
Special Reports
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