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Australia: An entire continent so infested with deadly creepy crawlies and creatures of all kinds, it seems like it’s actively trying to kill you. But is the natural world really any more dangerous down under than anywhere else?

Hosted by: Stefan Chine

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Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet?
Living Hazards Database
“Here are the animals REALLY most likely to kill you in Australia”, Australian Geographic
"Inland Taipan", Australian Museum
“What are the world’s deadliest animals?”, BBC
A 2008 review in the scientific journal PLoS
"The truth about white-tail spiders", Australian Geographic
“World’s deadliest spider: the funnel web,” Australian Geographic
“What is the most venomous marine animal?”, National Ocean Service
“Welcome to Australia, a land of creatures out to kill you… maybe”, The Conversation
“An Update on Fatalities Due to Venomous and Nonvenomous Animals in the United States (2008–2015).” Forrester, Weiser, and Forrester 2018.

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Australia: An entire continent so infested with deadly creepy crawlies and creatures of all kinds, it seems like it’s actively trying to kill you. Or so people like to say.

But is the natural world really any more dangerous down under than anywhere else? One way to figure that out is with. The Living Hazards Database, which is compiled by the United States.

Department of Defense for military doctors serving overseas. And it lists more than 60 species of venomous animals living down under, compared to just 34 in the United States, which covers a similar geographical area. And that’s not even considering sharks or crocs.

Which means Australia has to be super dangerous, right? But the truth is, animals don’t kill a lot of people in Australia. And when they do, it’s usually not the ones you’re thinking of.

According to the Australian government’s figures, between 2000 and 2010, animals were only involved in the death of about 250 people in Australia. And of those, 137 were related to horses, dogs, or cows. For comparison, a 2018 study found that from 2008 to 2015, animals were involved in the death of over 1,600 Americans -- though the US does have more than ten times more people than Australia.

The most dangerous animal in Australia was actually the kangaroo, and that was largely from car accidents.2 So why does the meme persist that everything in Australia is trying to kill you? Part of it might come from confusion about which animals are potentially dangerous and which ones actually end up hurting people. Take the inland taipan, for instance.

It’s a snake that lives in Australia and is said to be the most venomous snake on the planet. But it also tends to live in very remote areas and is fairly shy. Only a handful of people have ever been bitten, and deaths are virtually unheard of.

For comparison, the saw-scaled viper of Asia and northern Africa has much weaker venom, but it kills way more often, since it’s more aggressive and lives closer to people. Other times, the danger may actually be more of a folk tale than a real threat. The bite of the Australian white-tailed spider, for instance, is rumored to cause horrible, gangrene-like necrotic ulcers.

But studies have found no evidence of this ever happening, and the story might be the result of a couple misdiagnosed case studies back in the 1980s. But don’t get me wrong. There are dangerous animals in Australia, like funnel web spiders or box jellyfish, which merit a healthy dose of caution.

But by and large, Australia is not trying all that hard to kill you. Sure, it has a few more kinds of venomous creatures, but the number of deaths that they cause is extremely low. In the end, nature there is just as dangerous as it is anywhere else.

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