As we learned recently, the buzz and sting is far mightier than tooth and claw.
In June, The New Daily reported on the nine Australian animals most lethal to humans, uncovering some surprising results.
Sharks, snakes and crocodiles were absent from the top five killers in the national coronial database, while horses, cows and bees topped the list.
After crunching the global data, a website has discovered even more evidence that our fear of ravenous predators is misguided.
Deadliest of all is the humble mosquito, responsible for 750,000 human deaths per year, GOOD magazine reported this week.
War deaths pale into insignificance compared with the devastation caused by this tiny foe, an expert told The New Daily.
“Really, the killer is malaria and dengue fever and things like that, but the common factor is the mosquito,” said Central Queensland University biologist and parasite expert Dr Bret Heath.
“It’s always what they transmit. But the poor old mosquito gets the blame.”
Freshwater snails (110,000 deaths per year) and the ascaris roundworm (60,000) ranked second and third, GOOD magazine found.
Like the mozzie, the snail is a death dealer, not a direct killer. It causes schistosomiasis, or snail fever, by releasing parasite eggs into drinking water.
The Ascaris worm, however, is passed from human to human, making it lethal all by itself.
Venomous snakes (50,000 deaths yearly) and rabid dogs (40,000) are the first truly fearsome beasts on the list, but creepy crawlies make a speedy return.
In sixth place is the assassin bug (12,000 deaths), carrier of Chagas disease. Seventh is the tsetse fly, killer of 9000 people a year with sleeping sickness. And eighth is tapeworm (2000 deaths).
Crocodiles, hippos, elephants, lions, wolves and sharks rounded out the list, killing fewer than 2000 people a year combined.
“Those are the things we read about most because they are big, scary and have pointy teeth,” Dr Heath said.
“A lot is made, a lot is reported on, of those large animals attacking someone, perhaps killing someone, but no one reports a death from malaria.
“Look at the exposure a shark attack gets, most recently. We’ll go out and try to catch that shark, even though it’s [simply] mistaken something for food.”
Of course, some of the biggest killers in the world are humans.
GOOD magazine calculated that 475,000 people are murdered each year. Presumably this does not include casualties of war, nor those who die as a result of human-caused accidents.
“We do need to have humans on the list because we are, whatever our beliefs, an animal and we need to reflect on our own actions,” Dr Heath said.
And while nature may kill us, we do far more damage to it, he said.
“When we go about destroying vegetation or removing water bodies or spraying to get rid of mosquitos, we affect a lot of other animals as well.
“None of these things will matter if we continue to remove vegetation and lose species at the rate that we are.
“With this list, it’s sad that we’ll forget the good that a lot of those animals – mosquitoes, snails, lions, crocodiles and sharks – do.”