7 Animals That Aren’t What We Call Them

7 Animals That Aren’t What We Call Them


There are lots of things in nature that we’ve
given pretty odd names. Like, I know you know that seahorses aren’t
mammals that gallop through fields, and sea cucumbers aren’t vegetables. The frickin’ strange geoduck? It can’t even pretend to be a bird. And the mountain chicken, it turns out, is
actually a huge frog. But a lot of the time, we give animals certain
names, because they look or act a lot like another kind of animal … so much so that
we can’t really tell the difference between the two. Picking common and scientific names is a puzzle
of taxonomy, the science of classifying organisms based on their biological traits and evolutionary
history. A lot of what we think we know about the animal
kingdom can be understood through what we call things … And why they aren’t necessarily what they
appear to be. So here are 7 animals that aren’t what we
call them. [1. Jackrabbits] To start us off, we have the lanky, long-eared
jackrabbits, which are actually not rabbits. They’re hares. The name “jackrabbit” is used to describe
six different species of hares that live in middle and western North America. Their name supposedly comes from settlers
who said they looked like rabbits with donkey ears – so, a “jackass-rabbit.” But jackrabbits and true rabbits are more
like cousins. They’re both in the family known as Leporidae,
and are generally called leporids. But that family contains 11 genera, most of
which are rabbits. Only one is for true hares, the genus known
as Lepus. So, what’s the difference? Well, both rabbits and hares have skulls with
bony bumps that define their eye sockets, and teeth that grow constantly, kind of like
rodents’ do. Plus, they both have two huge front teeth
covered in enamel, with two tiny teeth right behind them. And they do look similar: y’know, short
bushy tails, long ears, big hind legs, and big feet. But here’s the thing: some of these similarities
might be partially because of convergent evolution. Over the past 12 to 16 million years, scientists
think some of their similar traits developed separately in different species of rabbits
and hares, rather than coming from a common ancestor. Eventually, researchers realized that jackrabbits
are true hares, which ended up being an important distinction. Hares are more solitary animals than rabbits,
for example. They don’t build burrows or live in colonies,
and they have different survival adaptations, like taller ears and longer legs to detect
predators and run away. Also, hares don’t reproduce like rabbits. Unlike rabbits, who have protected burrows,
female hares give birth wherever they feel like it, out in the open, to babies who are
born with full coats of fur and can start moving right away. [2. Mountain Goats] Next up are the wooly white mountain goats,
which – you guessed it! – aren’t goats! They’re in the same subfamily as goats,
known as Caprinae, which includes critters generally called caprids. But true goats are in the genus Capra, while
mountain goats are the lone species in Oreamnos . All caprids are kind of stocky, and have hooves
that are built for rough terrain, with foot pads and stubby dewclaws that can help some
of them grip rocks. And they’re sexually dimorphic, so males
usually have bigger bodies and bigger horns than the females. But mountain goats are physically different
from true goats. They have short, black, pointy horns, and
white fur. In the winter, their fur is shaggier to help
them stay warm, but they shed it for a shorter coat in the spring. And mountain goats only live in western North
America, in mountain ranges like the Rockies and the Cascades – which is how they got
their common name. But this is also why we don’t know very
much about the evolution of mountain goats: It turns out that rocky mountains aren’t
great for preserving fossils, so the natural history of these not-goats is largely unknown. [3. Mountain Lions] Then, we have the not-quite king-of-the-jungle,
the mountain lion, which isn’t actually a lion. Mountain lions go by a lot of common names,
like cougars, pumas, panthers, and catamounts. And all cats are members of the family Felidae,
but mountain lions are in the Puma genus, while the two subspecies of true lions are
in Panthera. Felids are specialized, carnivorous hunters,
which diverged from the now-extinct saber-toothed cats. They all have similar muzzle structures, cone-shaped
teeth, and tongues with spiky papillae to help clean themselves and remove all that
meaty goodness from their prey. Plus, they have five toes on their front paws,
and four in the back – and retractable claws. But mountain lions only live in the Americas,
while true lions prowl around Asia and Africa. And cougars are also a lot smaller than lions,
and they prefer a solitary lifestyle rather than traveling in prides. They’re also sexually dimorphic, but cougar
males are just slightly bulkier than the females, while male lions have that iconic mane. And they have different skull structures — specifically,
near the hyoid bone, which sits at the back of their tongue, and the larynx, which is
the organ that helps them make sounds. Lions have stretchier vocal tissues, and a
less-solid hyoid bone, which is why true lions can roar. Mountain lions, on the other hand, have more
solid hyoid bone and different tissues that makes them purr instead – just like our
kitty companions. [4. Flying Lemurs] Flying lemurs might remind you a little of
King Julien from the Madagascar movies, but it turns out, they’re not even in the same
order as lemurs. Lemurs are Primates, while flying lemurs,
also known as colugos, belong to the order known as Dermoptera. And they live in totally different parts of
the world. Colugos mainly live on islands in Southeast
Asia, like Borneo, Java, and the Philippines – whereas true lemurs are native to Madagascar
and its nearby islands. The easiest way to tell them apart? Colugos glide, with the help of a membrane
called a patagium that stretches between their chin, limbs, and tail. So, even though they’re in different parts
of the mammal family tree, scientists do know that primates and flying lemurs are taxonomically
related, along with the order that contains tree shrews. But they’re still trying to figure out how
they’re related. Right now, it’s mostly a mystery. [5. King Cobras] But enough about mammals! How about a reptile? Take the king cobra. It’s not actually the head of a snake monarchy
… and it’s not a cobra, either. King cobras are alone in the genus Ophiophagus,
and not Naja like the true cobras. But they’re all in the family Elapidae. True cobras roam on land and in water across
Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Asia, while king cobras tend to hang out in India
and Southeast Asia. All these snakes have short fangs on their
upper jaw, and you probably don’t want to get too close to any of them. Their venom is generally a fun mix of neurotoxins,
which means it can mess up your nervous system, and cytotoxins, which means it can damage
cells and tissues directly. Now, this name mix-up is also pretty understandable,
since “cobra” comes from a Portuguese phrase for “snake with a hood.” In both types of snakes, the hood is actually
made of rib bones that the snakes can flare out using specialized muscles – to look
all scary as a first line of defense. But physically, the king cobra has a narrower
hood than true cobras, and it has a chevron pattern on it, instead of the characteristic
design that looks like freaky eyes staring at you. The king cobra is also the longest of the
venomous snakes. Plus, it’s evolved different methods to regulate
its venom secretion – so it injects more of a highly potent toxin than true cobras
do, to kill its prey. And finally, in addition to eating small vertebrates
like mice like its cousins do, the king cobra also straight-up eats other snakes. To which I say, well played. [6. Electric Eels] Let’s dive underwater for our next misnomer:
electric eels. But, prepare to be disappointed, because they’re
not actually eels, they are knifefish. Knifefish and eels are both bony fish with
ray-fins, which have thin bones and less muscle. But electric eels are actually in the order
Gymnotiformes, rather than true eels, which are in Anguilliformes. Most eels live in saltwater, although some
live most of their lives in freshwater, and return to the ocean to breed. So when someone discovered the long, tubular
electric knifefish in the muddy rivers of South America, they probably just assumed
it was an eel. Upon closer inspection, though, electric eels
only have a big fin on the bottom – and lack the dorsal one that true eels have. True eels can also get oxygen through their
skin and gills. But electric eels live in such low-oxygen
waters that their gills aren’t always enough. In those muddy rivers, they have to pop up
to the surface to breathe air, using vascular tissues in the lining of their mouths that
absorb oxygen, kind of like our lung tissue does. And most notably, electric eels are, electric. They have special organs that can generate
shocks up to 600 volts, enough to give a significant jolt to a human, or snag some prey for dinner. That’s what puts electric eels in the ranks
of knifefish, because all knifefish can generate weak electric fields using similar organs. They use these fields to tell what’s nearby,
like food, predators, or other electric fish. And knifefish can even use them to talk to
each other. [7. Mantis Shrimp] We’ll end with the super-weird super-tough
mantis shrimp. As you can probably guess, they’re not shrimp,
or even in the same order as them. They’re a type of crustacean, in the huge
class Malacostraca, which contains tens of thousands of diverse creatures. Mantis shrimp, or stomatopods, are in the
order Stomatopoda, rather than Decapoda like lobsters, crabs, and shrimp. They all have a hard, segmented exoskeleton,
but have different specialized limbs and body parts that help them feed and fight. So it’s possible that the mantis shrimp
got its name because it looks like a small-ish crustacean with bulging round eyes and antennae-like
structures around its face. But stomatopods diverged from crustaceans
over 250 million years ago, and evolved into ridiculous predators. Shrimp are omnivorous and scavenge whatever
they can find, but mantis shrimp are stone-cold killers. They have two types of highly specialized
claws: spiny ones that can stab prey, and others designed like hammers that can punch
at speeds around 80 kilometers per hour. So what’s really in a name? When it comes to animals, it’s a lot of
guesswork, and sometimes we just totally get things wrong. But, hey. Scientists are always figuring out how to
classify and reclassify species. So really, calling an electric knifefish an
electric eel isn’t going to hurt anyone. And if you find yourself cornered by a bunch
of king cobras … is it really going to matter what order it belongs to? Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
which was brought to you by our patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this show, just
go to patreon.com/scishow. And don’t forget to go to youtube.com/scishow
and subscribe!

100 thoughts on “7 Animals That Aren’t What We Call Them

  1. I'm kind of surprised the King Cobra is alone in Ophiophagus. With a name that basically means the subtitle of a Metal Gear Solid game, you'd think king snakes, which also eat other snakes, would be there as well.

  2. This summer I was at the park and some people in front of me freaking out about a bug. One person did a google search and announced that it was a himmingbird hawk-moth. Another person asked, 100% seriously, "Is it more moth or more hummingbird?" They debated this for ten whole minutes.
    At some point during their conversation, someone said, "I didn't know hawks and moths could breed."
    It was absolutely astounding. I almost chimed in but I really wanted to see if they'd figure it out themselves. They did not.

  3. yes! yes it dose matter. if im goin to scream for my life that im being attacked by a king cobra i want to know what geno it belongs too !! lmao

  4. Including mountain lions, but not pronghorns? SMH. Pronghorns are also known as the American antelope, but they're closer to giraffes.

  5. i dont get why the true cobra get that family king cobras would eat them how is it not the only true cobra we should re categorize them any cobra that can be eaten by the king is now not a true cobra

  6. Yeah we totally didn’t know mountain lions aren’t lions. If you called it saber toothed tiger I would’ve screamed

  7. Even Scientific Names can have this problem. A Basilosaurus is a dinosaur, right? Wrong it's really a kind of whale.

  8. After you mentioned the mantis shrimp, I thought maybe you were going to bring up horseshoe crabs, which aren't crabs or even crustaceans. Is that too well-known to include in this video?

  9. This is so important, even in conservation work. The name of an animal should not determine its fate or worth – names are simply labels that we apply to ever evolving, non-comforing nature.
    I work with dingoes – who are often mislabelled wild dogs. The labelling of them as wild dogs allow them to be lethally controlled despite them being a threatened species endemic to Australia. But does it really matter if they are a dingo or a wild dog? If they are performing the same role as apex predator – a keystone species in regulating biodiversity – why does it matter what label it has.
    What matters is how it functions ecologically. Not what some white settler calls it.

  10. Sorry but cobra is portuguese for snake, not snake with a good…I haver no ideia where you got That ideia o.O

  11. The bison is frequently called buffalo, but buffalo are purely an old world species and aren't native to North America.

    North America has bison, not buffalo!

  12. 7:20
    “Even the octopus, who is quite a badass, can’t deal with these little psycho bastards.”
    -You know where this quote is from

  13. In Afrikaans, a leopard is a "luiperd", which actually means "lazy horse". Similarly, a cheetah is a "jagluiperd", which means "hunting lazy horse". A giraffe is a "kameelperd" which means "camel horse", this makes more sense probably…..

  14. Interesting fact regarding big cats… Evolution allows for only one of two options (with the possible exception of the snow leopard)… You can either roar OR purr, you cannot do both!!! 😸

  15. You talked about the mantis shrimp, but the pictures you showed looked more like pistol shrimp. If you haven't already, you should do a show on those, because they're fascinating too!

  16. I'm glad there was at least one invertebrate in here, and the colugo definitely belongs here, but there are so many invertebrates with misleading names, like in insects. Tons of insect names end in fly or bug that aren't flies or bugs. And then you have things like sea spiders, horseshoe crabs, brittlestars… the list goes on. But I am still glad colugos were in here.

  17. Mountain Lions don't just "go by a lot of common names", they hold the record for most common names of any single species.

  18. Long story short; common names aren't actually an accurate method of naming things. You find that problem a lot when dealing with plants, especially when you take into account the many different languages used to refer to them. Like, there are probably hundreds of different plants that are all called Bluebells, in whatever the local language is, and most of them are probably only slightly related to each other. Common names tend to refer to well known things like a shape matched with a color, in this case the bell shape of the flower matched with an appropriate color.

    But because of convergent evolution that isn't actually very useful for knowing the properties of a plant unless you live somewhere with a unique enough biome that it's less likely for another plant with the same(or similar enough) name to grow there.

  19. Ok yes Mountain Lions don't purr, but they do SCREAM. It's terrifying to hear unless you grew up with it/are used to it. They sound exactly like a woman being brutally murdered. No I'm not joking, look it up.

  20. Next time someone tells you that you should be your true self, remember that the alternative is being your King self, or Electric self, or Flying self. Suddenly being 'true' doesn't sound as awesome.

  21. Some lionesses have manes, due to a mutation, which is promoted by prides having greater territorial power with more male lions, or the perception of it since these mutant lionesses also act like males, but are treated by their own pride as a lioness.

  22. I can't believe you didn't include penguins!
    True penguins are extinct and only ever lived in the northern hemisphere. The southern birds we call penguins today are unrelated.

  23. How about the Pronghorn antelope….not even an antelope, but is in a genus all its own…Pronghorn
    Or how about the north American Buffalo…not a buffalo at all, but is rather a Bison

  24. Most of the examples are just arbitrary lines in the sand we have drawn as humans and we could split other species up or group them based on nuance like behavior.

  25. I wanted to comment on your pronunciation of -idae and -inae but then I realized I've never heard them said out loud before

  26. So um the king Cobra is a snake right and true cobras are snakes right and both king and true can kill u pdq right ? But why is the kind Cobra not a Cobra again? Like I understand the mountain lion but what about the king Cobra makes it not a cobra again like sounds to me like there are to many small ass unimportant details that make things different like the mantis shrimp looks like a shrimp and it sits like a mantis so I guess the name is aptly put but it's not a shrimp because of why ? Why are shrimp not mantis shrimp are we doing an apples to apples comparison of the taxonomy of these creatures?

  27. Most of these were just about how we classify things.

    It seems really nitpicky to say that a mountain lion isn't a lion because it's smaller and it's skull is slightly different. We're comparing African animals to American animals. It should be expected that they are at least somewhat different. It's like saying that a St.Bernard is a true dog, but a chihuahua isn't because a chihuahua is much smaller, has a different skull shape, births a different amount of puppies, has a different type of coat….

    I was amused in the previous video with the "Mountain Chicken" being a type of frog. But a Jackrabbit being a hare and not a rabbit or the mantis shrimp not being in the same genus as true shrimp, is just about how certain scientists decided to classify them.

    Humans are the ones who thought up classifications for animals, the ones that placed animals into different classifications and the ones that named the animals…

  28. Funny sidenote: in german hare and rabbit can be translated into the same word (Hase) wich makes number 1 a even more confusing for germans

  29. I wonder if mountain goats can breed with regular goats. same question with a lot of the animals mentioned. By breed I mean producing viable young.

  30. King cobras are NOT the only cobras that eat other snakes! All true cobras also do so. As an amateur herpetologist who has had occasion to keep Snouted (Egyptian) cobras for a while, I have actually seen a larger one swallowing a smaller, which makes them not only ophiophagus, (though perhaps not as much so as is the King cobra), but cannibalistic, too.

    There are other snake-eating snakes out there, such as the non-venomous File snake (so called because its scales make it look similar to a triangular wood rasp – Google "file snake images"), which not only resolutely refuses to bite humans, but is a notorious snake eater.

  31. “Prepare to be disappointed… they’re knifefish” ok but I’m the opposite of disappointed because knifefish sound waaay cooler than eels

  32. Decapita sounds like an order or whatever of animals that are known for decapitating their prey or predators.
    Decapoda however does sound a lot more like the way that is pronounced.

  33. FUR SEALS ARE NOT SEALS!!!! THEY ARE SEA LIONS!!!!! can we please change that damn name already? the pups of seals and seal lions are the cutest things on earth though…

  34. Cougars roar. Have heard it.

    Although maybe very angry scowl is a better description but it hits some of the low notes.

  35. 5:43 would've been nice of you to show us the difference between these two designs instead of making us Google what a chevron pattern is.

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