Animal behavior is a classic example of a subject most of us think we know more about than we really do. Often we are wrong because we should have checked our sources. However, it could also be because humans tend to try to find their own habits in other species or because we have outdated information that has been refuted since our parents and teachers mentioned for the first time a particular animal.
Here are 10 animal behaviors humans think they know…but they might be surprised to find out they’re all wrong.
Related: 10 animals that use bizarre methods to kill their prey
ten Possums don’t “play” dead
Some people think opossums are adorable, while others hate them. But most people make two false assumptions about them: first, that English speakers are allowed to drop the first “o” when talking about them, and second, that trapped possums feign death to scare away predators. potentials. Indeed, the fuzzy creatures will fall, tongues hanging out, unloading their entrails; they will lie there – seemingly dead – for minutes or hours, making them not only look dead, but also smell too bad for most animals to eat. Humans have mistakenly assumed that this behavior was intentional for so long that “playing possum” (or, colloquially, “playing opossum”) is a commonly used English phrase for playing dead.
The sad truth is that small animals involuntarily go into a catatonic state when taken by surprise. The phenomenon is closer to them being almost scared to death. They cannot control it and, what is worse, they cannot get out of this state which lasts from a few minutes to several hours, no matter what is done to them. Although their scent can deter most predators, opossums become unable to defend themselves from being moved, injured, or killed.
9 Raccoons do not wash their food
Raccoons look adorable when they bring their food to a water source and “wash” it. However, they are not really picky eaters who worry about germs. What they are, in fact, are extremely tactile animals. They have four to five times more nerve endings in their legs than most mammals. Therefore, they glean a lot of information by touching things. And it turns out that getting their paws wet improves nervous response to tactile input. This is why raccoons “wash their food”.
8 Not all fireflies seek to mate
Fireflies, the common name for members of the Lampyridae family, light up our summer skies. Incredibly, there are more than two thousand species of small beetles. They may all look the same to us, but there are certainly distinctions and variations between them. We tend to assume that they turn on to find mates, and as you might expect, that is the case for many of them.
However, not all fireflies stalk in the same direction at night. Some of them use their phosphorescent lighting abilities to hunt. And some even use it to attract lightning bugs of a different species into a fake mating call. The unconscious insect will then fly towards them, only to get trapped and eaten.
seven Ostriches don’t stick their heads in the sand
We all know the expression “Don’t bury your head in the sand!” It is often associated with the idea of running away from one’s problems. In an extremely bizarre example of anthropomorphism, humans thought that ostriches literally stick their heads in the sand when scared.
Aside from the fact that they couldn’t breathe with their heads in the ground, ostriches aren’t stupid enough to think that not seeing danger would make it go away. No potential prey that has survived this long could have such terrible instincts!
In reality, what looks like ostriches sticking their heads in the ground, they are just sticking their beaks in their nest to turn their eggs several times a day.
6 Lemmings don’t commit mass suicide
We all know the sweet, albeit disturbing, image of a lemming leaping off a cliff and the rest of the group following it. Just like ostriches, lemmings don’t have bad survival instincts. However, they migrate when their population density becomes too high.
In the case of migrations, they have been known to try to cross a body of water that turns out to be too large for their endurance capacity, in which case many of them will drown. They have also been known to accidentally fall off the edge of a cliff.
For a very long time, their behavior and the resulting lemming corpses were inexplicable to humans, prompting false theories about lemmings falling from the sky, exploding, swimming in the ocean until they drowned, and jumping from cliffs.
Most notably, perhaps, these misconceptions were reinforced by Walt Disney’s 1958 documentary white desert.
5 Skunks Don’t Spray Every Time They’re Scared
Under the impression that skunks are always spraying larger animals, most people panic when they encounter one. In reality, skunks spray as little as possible. This is because they try to avoid using their glands whenever they can because the fluid they secrete is limited and will drain completely before replenishing. Depending on the skunk, they can spray up to six times before having to wait two weeks for their glands to recharge. During these two weeks they are, of course, extremely vulnerable. So skunks actually use every other method to get away from predators before resorting to spraying.
On an interesting note, skunks warn us that they are about to spray by doing what looks like a very specific little dance. This involves stomping on the ground and standing on your hands, depending on the species of skunk – although, of course, what we think of as a “warning dance” is, in reality, a way of trying to scare us. And it will work on any savvy human!
4 Cats always land on their paws
Cats are extremely good at jumping, balancing and righting themselves when they fall. Among other things, their whiskers (which exist not only on their face but also on the back of their legs) help them orient themselves and keep their balance.
However, they do not always land on their feet. It’s a great scalable tool, but it’s not magic. If a cat falls from too short a distance and cannot correct its trajectory or if it is overweight, it could very well have a bad fall and be injured or die. If you own a cat in an apartment, keep your windows closed…
3 Cats don’t play with their prey
Another common misconception about cats is that they play with their prey. For example, when house cats have been observed chasing mice, they throw them in much the same way as they would one of their toys. In truth, however, it is the opposite: they treat their toys the same way they treat their prey; for many predators, playtime is a period of hunting training.
So why do they throw away their food instead of just killing it and eating it? Simply put, all cats are highly specialized predators. They are incredibly well-built killing machines from the perspective of their prey, but if something goes wrong they can quickly become injured and die. They must therefore be very careful in their hunting technique and avoid any risk of being scratched or bitten.
Cat owners will notice, for example, that the mice their pets bring home never die from a bite but almost always from a broken spine, where the cat threw the mouse out with a kick. powerful paw instead of risking bringing his face too close to him. the little rodent.
2 The alpha wolf does not beat the pack
We used to believe that wolves (and, by extension, dogs) fought for dominance and the most dominant male or female of the species became their leader. However, more recent research has refuted this theory.
Indeed, it would seem that the pack leader is nothing more than the most prolific breeder, who therefore has the most children in the pack, and that wolves and dogs know very well that “father/ mother knows best” and follow their parents’ instructions. tips.
What’s even more interesting is that most wolf “packs” turn out to be just singular wolf families. In this case, the supposed alpha doesn’t even need to cross paths with anyone. They are simply pack leaders by being the parent.
1 Pandas excel at mating in the wild
Giant pandas are kept in captivity in an effort to save the species from extinction. They are lovable, have the most wasteful eating habits (they almost exclusively eat bamboo, which is of such poor nutritional value that they have to eat up to eighty-four pounds of it a day), and have been referred to as inept at surviving.
In an incredible twist of irony, however, it turns out that giant pandas barely mate in captivity. Females are only fertile for a very short time. When set up in a scientific context, neither males nor females seem particularly interested in copulation. The fun (and very sad) fact is that, in the wild, pandas have no libido problems. In fact, it’s hard to delicately put how much sex they have…
Now, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t die if left alone. But it says a lot about humans that we believe any male and female of a species will reproduce if we lock them together…
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