Dangerous Trypophobic Animals
Evolutionary psychology is a growing field of psychological sciences aiming at understanding human emotions and the development of emotional processes. From an evolutionary point of view, fear and anxiety evolved as parts of our natural instinct for survival. By quickly organizing our cognitive functions, fear sharpens our senses and activates our fight-or-flight response. The danger is avoided by our strategic decisions made at all three levels: rational, emotional and instinctive. When talking about certain phobias such as trypophobia or the fear of clusters of holes, the evolutionary processes had a profound effect on the patterns of our previously acquired response behaviors.
Trypophobia Triggers – The Most Dangerous Animals on the Planet
The first study on Trypophobia was published in 2013 by two researchers from the University of Essex, Geoff Cole and Arnold Wilkins. Even though it isn’t officially registered by the American Psychiatric Association, Trypophobia was widely documented by sufferers on the Internet and these researchers have found that about 16% of participants reported Trypophobic reactions. Despite these data and the fact that it’s probably “the most common phobia you have never heard of”, there has been little scientific investigation of this phenomenon. The two scientists tried to answer the question about why some unique visual features can lead to such aversive reactions. By exploring Trypopobes’ reactions and symptoms, they have tracked down that some fear-inducing images cause symptoms which are similar to those of panic attacks, such as accelerated heart rate, sweating, shaking, nausea, shortness of breath, and feeling a loss of control. After standardizing various features of the images, Trypophobic objects had one thing in common, specific visual features which lead to feelings of fear, discomfort, and disgust. They have started with 76 control images with high contrast features. However, when one self-reported Trypophobe mentioned a fear of a blue-ringed octopus skin pattern, they had what Cole has called“a bit of a Eureka moment”. They have collected 10 images of the 10 most poisonous animals in the world and analyzed their ability to induce Trypophobic reactions in participants. The species they selected included the blue-ringed octopus, the king cobra snake, the toxic puffer fish, the reef stonefish, the poison dart frog, the marbled cone snail, the box jellyfish, the Brazilian wandering spider, the deathstalker scorpion, and the inland taipan snake. The researchers have analyzed their patterns and found that these poisonous species sometimes have patterns similar to the patterns that revolt Trypophobes. They think ancient selection pressures on humans to avoid the types of patterns found on some poisonous animals and plants could have evolved into trypophobia. “There may be an ancient evolutionary part of the brain telling people that they are looking at a poisonous animal,” Cole said in a 2013 press release. The disgust we feel may well give us an evolutionary advantage, even if we don’t know it consciously, because it sends people with trypophobia running as far as possible from the holey-looking thing.” The researchers added that while some people suffer a much less severe reaction, all people share a dislike of Trypophobic objects because of learned survival behavior.
Animals that Induce the Strongest Trypophobic Reactions
- The blue-ringed octopus
Native to the Pacific Ocean, the blue-ringed octopus often hide in shells and marine debris. Although all octopuses are venomous, its venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide, which can kill 26 humans within minutes. The venom blocks the nerve signals causing muscle numbness and respiratory arrest. When threatened, they display small bright, blue rings which can be seen all over its body. Weighing only about 28 grams, the upper surface of its skin is covered by numerous irregularly arranged wrinkles. When they rest, the blue rings become invisible and octopus color becomes a uniform gray to beige, with 10 arms (maculae) forming a pattern of brown dots.
- The toxic puffer fish
The puffer fish or blowfish is considered the second most poisonous vertebrate in the world, containing a toxin 1,200 times more deadly than cyanide which could kill up to 30 people. They got their name because of the ability to “puff” or “blow up” their body as a part of the natural defense reaction. They fill their elastic stomachs with a huge amount of water and blows themselves up to several times their normal size. They move very slowly through the waters of Montezuma and Tortuga Islands which make them a very easy prey for the predators. The fish has greenish skin with thin, sharp spines and brown spots of irregular shapes and can “blow up” its body to the size of a medium- sized football.
- The poison dart frog
Poison Dart frogs live in Central and South America rainforests. Their brightly colored bodies, being the size of an adult thumbnail,display aposematic patterns. The blue color of their skin is generally darker on the limbs and belly, with black spots or patches, signaling a warning to other predators. As the name implies, poison dart frogs release their toxins through the skin, which could be lethal to these would-be predators or humans. The toxin is called batrachotoxin which can cause paralysis and death once it enters the bloodstream and kills up to 10 people. Several studies have shown that bright colors are often warning signs and that those bearing the brightest colors are often the most poisonous.
- The marbled cone snail
Cone snail’s habitat is in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean and Red Seas, and along the coast of Florida. Also known as the Cigarette Snail, it’s one of the most poisonous animals on the planet. The venom is powerful enough to kill about 20 humans. The toxin targets the nervous system, paralyzing the victim and leading to the victim’s death. The shells range from an inch to 9 inches in size and a sharp venomous stinger appears as a harpoon out of the shell. The basic form of the coin snail shell is a regular and straight-sided cone with map-like markings. The cone snail is a very deadly animal, constantly regrowing its radulae. This group of sea snails varies in color and patterns, with a lot of local varieties and color forms. There are approximately more than 3,200 different species names with an average of 16 new species names introduced each year.
- The reef stonefish
The reef stonefish are masters of camouflage and their stone-like appearance can completely blend with the surrounding. They are predators, living on small fish and invertebrates, but hunted by larger fish such as rays and sharks. While this ability to camouflage themselves gives them protection from these predators, its primary role is to ambush their prey. Their preferred habitat is coral and rocky reefs, with their colors being the perfect match with the surrounding. In addition to the gruesome look, they have thirteen dorsal fin spines that can inject an extremely poisonous neurotoxin that contains enough poison to kill a man if accidentally stepped on. The species are usually gray or brown with yellow, red or orange patches. They grow to a length of 12-16 inches and behave very still in the waters. The features which distinguish the reef stonefish from an estuarine stonefish is the position of their eyes. While the eyes of the reef stonefish are set apart by a deep depression, estuarine stonefish has more elevated eyes, separated by a bony ridge. Once a pressure is placed on the spines, they automatically inject the toxin in the victim.
- The king cobra snake
The king cobra snake is the largest and the most dangerous venomous snake in the world. It can reach a length up to 18.5 feet and grow up to 44 pounds in weight. Male snakes are longer and weigh more than females, which is a very unusual characteristic if we consider the size of males and females of other snake species. Their skin varies in color, from yellow, green, brown, to black. It appears that their skin glistens, however, they are actually dry to the touch. The tongue picks up the scent particles, detecting the prey in a second. The snakes have also excellent eyesight, enabling them to spot a prey almost 300 feet away. Usually, they will avoid contact with others, or if threatened, they will rear up and flatten its neck into the hood, with eyespot markings appearing on the surface of the skin. The amount of neurotoxin they can deliver in a single bite is enough to kill 20 people or even an elephant. They are not only excellent climbers, living in the forests near streams, but also super swimmers. Their diet includes other snakes, rodents or lizards.
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