With around 8.7 million animal species gracing our planet, it’s no wonder that we have some facts about animals totally wrong. Some animals and their behavior remain mysterious to scientists and it’s only through long term research and observation that they’ve been able to bust a number of animal myths. Here’s a list of well-known but utterly false facts about the fury, scaly and slimy creatures that grace our planet.
10. Myth: Bats are blind.
Often associated with darkness, witches and black magic, bats have a lot of mythology and misconceptions surrounding them, making them seem like foreboding creatures of the night. Although people often think bats are blind due to their only hunting at night, the fact is that all species of bats can see, although their vision is poorly developed. To compensate they have excellent senses of smell and hearing, and are able to use echo-location and sonar abilities to navigate and hunt at night. Their sonar abilities are so exceptional that they’re often better than military-grade sonar, which is amazing for such small animals.
9. Myth: Elephants are the only animals that cannot jump.
It’s true, elephants can’t jump – if by jumping we mean the state at which an animal propels itself off the ground by its own force, with all feet off the ground at the same time – but they’re definitely not the only ones. A few other animals that can’t jump are the sloth, hippo, rhino, giraffe, rockhopper penguin, and countless others. Could you imagine a hippo gliding gracefully through the air? Perhaps only if you’re into Disney cartoons.
8. Myth: A goldfish has a 3-second memory.
If you’ve ever been told that you have the memory of a goldfish, you’ll understand why this myth is so ingrained in society. The actual memory span of goldfish is at least three months, and some researchers have managed to prove that goldfish can remember what they have been taught up to a year later. In addition to a very good memory, goldfish also have good vision, being able to distinguish between shapes and colors. So the next time someone ignorantly compares your memory to that of a goldfish, don’t forget to thank them!
7. Myth: Ostriches bury their heads in the sand when scared or threatened.
Although this myth serves as the perfect metaphor for someone who’s clearly in denial about something or other, the fact is that it’s patently untrue. The truth is that ostriches, or any other bird or mammal, would not be able to breathe if its head were buried in the sand. The simple explanation for this myth is that ostriches bury their eggs in holes in the ground and often turn the eggs (with their beaks) and tend to the eggs several times a day. From a distance it often seems like the ostrich has its head buried in the sand.
6. Myth: Mother birds will reject their young once touched by humans.
Birds have a very limited sense of smell, and the slight scent left by touching a baby bird will definitely not get detected by its mother. In fact, birds are very devoted to their young and are unlikely to leave the nest because of an unknown scent – although they have been known to abandon their nests due to disturbance. Hardly ever will a bird abandon the nest with chicks, which is plainly against the nature of raising offspring. Returning a young bird to its nest can save the chick, and as long as there are no other major disturbances, it is highly unlikely that the mother will detect human contact.
5. Myth: Wild dolphins are friendly and will save humans in trouble.
Dolphins don’t particularly care for humans; why would they? They are after all wild carnivores of the ocean. The myth that wild dolphins are friendly and will haste to your assistance when you’re in trouble is a result of their curious nature which is often mistaken for caring or friendliness. For example, dolphins swimming next to boats are doing so in order to ride the boats wake, allowing them to use less energy to swim; not because of their love for all things human.
In fact many people have been bitten or injured while attempting to swim with wild dolphins (we’re not talking about the trained dolphins seen at marine parks). There is, however, one way in which dolphins are helping humans: recent research is helping scientists understand how dolphins survive shark attacks, and their tissue-regeneration and anti-bacterial properties are considered nothing short of a medical miracle.
4. Myth: One human year is equivalent to seven dog years.
Here’s something to think about: at a young age, a small dog is older than a large dog, but with age, the small dog becomes younger than the larger breed. How can this be? Turns out dog aging is quite complex, and the most important factor is that it’s related to the dogs physical size. Larger breeds age much faster than smaller breeds. It’s thought that on average a two-year old dog compares to a teenager of 14 or 15 years or a young adult of 18 to 25 years, depending on the breed. Dog aging slows down after two years, debunking the seven to one ratio. The ratio between dog years and human years is therefore much more complex than seven to one, and there is no specific dog-to-human age ratio that is universally accepted.
3. Myth: A healthy dog’s nose is cold and wet.
An old wives’ tale that has caused many a panic-stricken call to the vet. The temperature of your dogs nose typically fluctuates during the day, ranging from dry and hot (often when waking up in the morning) to cold and wet later during the day. The moistness of your dog’s nose is also no indicator of their health, as it could be moist due to a nasal cold, for example. As a dog owner, you can better understand your dog’s health by getting to know their typical behavior and noticing any changes from the norm. Are they not eating well lately, or sleeping restlessly? These behaviors will give you a much better clue as to your dog’s well-being.
2. Myth: Dogs cannot see color, only black and white.
Dogs can see color, but not as wide a spectrum as humans can. In addition to black, white and shades of grey they can also distinguish between blue-voilet and yellow-green colors. In would probably be more correct to say that dogs are green-blind. Your pup may very well confuse red, orange and green, as well as green-blue, gray, and shades of purple. Researchers have shown that a dog’s eye has both rods and cones, although they only have two cones whereas a human eye has three. Only if dogs had no cones at all would they have been restricted to seeing black and white.
1. Myth: Owls are the wisest among birds.
Perhaps the earliest known link between owls and wisdom is their association with Athena, as the Greek goddess of wisdom is often depicted holding an owl. With their overly large eyes and the constant serious, almost thoughtful look on their faces, owls give off the impression of wisdom, of being a cut above the rest. From legends, folklore, children’s tales to Hollywood, owls have always been the night watchmen – sometimes sinister, always smart. Unfortunately owls are actually placed on the lower-end of intelligent birds, with the common crow considered the wisest among birds.