8 Things People Get Wrong About Animals

♪Intro♪ As kids, lots of us watched cartoons or read
books with animals as the main characters. And even though we knew those stories weren’t
real, because animals don’t really speak English or drop Acme safes on each other,
they definitely spread some weird misconceptions about certain species. Hopefully a lot of confusion has been cleared
up as you’ve gotten older… but we’re guessing that at least one of these eight
debunkings will come as a surprise. If you grew up with Winnie the Pooh stories,
you learned that there’s nothing bears love more than honey, right? Well… not exactly. Bears do raid beehives, but the real prize
is the brood, the collective term for the egg, larva, and pupa stages of developing
bees. Bears find beehives by smell, both wild ones
tucked into places like tree cavities and the boxes maintained by beekeepers. And they’ll tear hives apart to get at the
sweet insides. The bees, understandably, aren’t thrilled
about this. So they’ll attack a bear’s face and ears,
because its thick fur helps deflect their stings. Honey is made from the sugary nectar of flowers,
so it’s full of carbohydrates like glucose and fructose. And, sure, bears will go for honey if it’s
there, but it’s not really what their diet needs. On the other hand, eating the brood provides
a snack full of proteins and fats. And that helps bears prep for hibernation,
when they stop eating or drinking for months and rely on stored-up nutrients to survive. And even though beehives may be a nice treat,
they only make up a small part of the diets of both black and grizzly bears. Bears will also eat roots, berries, other
insects, fish, mammals, and pretty much whatever they can get. Which, you know, sounds a little more doable
than just surviving on sugar. Cats may seem like they enjoy lapping up a
dish full of cow milk, and it’s even a staple in cartoons like Tom and Jerry. But surprise: milk is actually pretty bad
for their digestion. Most mammals, cats included, lose their ability
to digest milk when they grow up. It’s like how dairy-loving humans are the
weird ones, not the norm. As kittens, their small intestinal cells naturally
make an enzyme called lactase, which breaks down the sugar found in milk called lactose. That’s important, because newborn mammals
get all their nutrients from milk produced by a parent’s mammary glands. So their bodies definitely need to be able
to process it. But, as they grow and start eating other foods,
lactase production naturally shuts down. And when undigested lactose passes through
the large intestine, those cells end up secreting a lot of extra water to deal with it… which
leads to diarrhea. Gut bacteria might also ferment the stuff
and produce gas, which causes bloating. Now, the milk of every mammal species has
a unique blend of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to meet specific nutrition needs. So kittens need cat milk to thrive. Cow’s milk has way more lactose than the
average adult cat can handle, and even though kittens are better at breaking down the sugar,
it’s not great for them either. So leave that kitten with mom until it’s
ready to be weaned off of milk. And then, just stick to kibble or something. Speaking of drinking stuff, cartoons sometimes
show elephants using their trunks like a straw to suck up water. Really, though, they can’t do this any more
than you can drink through your nose. Don’t try that, by the way. And that’s because an elephant’s trunk
is the anatomical equivalent of your nose and upper lip. After all, most land-dwelling animals are
really just the same body plan squashed and stretched in different ways over millions
of years of evolution. Trunks are basically tubes of muscle tissue,
and are used for smelling, picking up food, communication, and all sorts of other things. Elephants /do/ use their trunks to drink. But they do it by sucking water part of the
way up, then squirting it into their mouths. A typical elephant trunk can hold almost 10
liters of water, so it’s a pretty good thirst quencher! Or like a huge built-in water gun. The link between carrots and rabbits has an
interesting history. It all started with Bugs Bunny, but his habit
was inspired by the 1934 film It Happened One Night. Specifically, Clark Gable’s quick-talking
character munches on a whole carrot during a particularly famous scene involving hitchhiking. So moviegoers would have recognized the reference
in cartoons. But rabbits don’t eat root vegetables in
the wild. Instead, they mostly go after grasses and
weeds, which have lots of long carbohydrates that are all considered kinds of fiber, which
is pretty tough to break down. Root veggies like carrots have different carbohydrates. And too much of some kinds of sugars, like
small molecules of fructose or certain longer chains like starch, can lead to tooth and
digestive problems. For instance, there’s a pouch called the
cecum between the intestines. It’s home to lots of microbes that break
down molecules like fiber that are hard to digest. That broken down stuff gets squeezed into
pellets called cecotropes, which rabbits poop out and eat to have an extra chance to absorb
nutrients. If a rabbit’s diet has too many easily-digestible
sugars, like from carrots, the kinds of microbes that thrive in the cecum can change. And that throws off whole system. So protect their poop! Better food choices for bunnies include hay,
grass, and rabbit pellets, while carrots should only be an occasional treat. I’m about to ruin all your happy childhood
memories of feeding bread crusts to ducks at the park: bread is actually kind of terrible
for birds. But a lot of people do this. In 2014, for example, people in England and
Wales fed an estimated /six million loaves/ of bread to ducks. The problem is that bread has very little
nutritional value — it’s basically just starch — but it still fills up the birds
and keeps them from seeking out a more nutritious diet. Young birds who just eat bread may never learn
to forage for themselves. And a bread-heavy diet, is low in protein
and vitamins. Scientists don’t know exactly why, but these
dietary deficiencies can cause a deformity called angel wing. The wrist joint in one or both wings starts
to twist outward. If it’s bad enough, angel wing can completely
prevent a duck from flying, leaving it vulnerable to predators. Not to mention, uneaten bread is bad for the
environment, too. All those extra sugars floating around in
ponds and rivers can provide extra food for microbes, fueling blooms of certain bacteria
and algae. Many of these microbes produce toxins that
are dangerous to both people and animals, so it’s bad news for water quality. So if you just can’t give up feeding ducks,
consider giving them something like oats, corn, or even lettuce instead of your leftover
bread. Cartoons aside, ostriches don’t really bury
their heads in the sand when they’re scared. But if you’re wondering where the heck this
idea came from, zoologists have a few guesses. Ostriches are the biggest birds in the world,
standing two to three meters tall, but they have really small heads relative to their
bodies. From a distance, if an ostrich is pecking
at food on the ground, its head may be hard to see at all. So it might seem like it’s tucked underground. These mega-birds also dig pits in the dirt,
about two meters wide and a meter deep, to use as nests. They rotate their eggs a few times each day
with their beaks, making sure each embryo is evenly heated and nourished by the goopy
nutrients inside. And this can make it look even more like their
heads are vanishing into the ground. So what do ostriches do when they’re scared? If they can’t run, and don’t feel threatened
enough to fight back, they’ll flop to the ground with their heads outstretched and hold
still, trying to blend in with their surroundings. Like a stop, drop, and hide kind of situation. It might seem kind of silly that a huge bird
is trying to be sneaky, but it’s way more effective than just hiding their head and,
like, pretending there’s no danger. Someone has probably warned you that a scared
porcupine can launch its quills into the air to fend off an attacker. But, as cool as that sounds… it’s not
true. Porcupine quills are basically modified hairs,
so they’re sharp, hard, and mostly made of a structural protein called keratin. When a porcupine is freaked out, tiny muscles
at the base of each quill cause it to stand upright — like the hairs on your arms when
you get goosebumps. A porcupine’s first line of defense is just
to puff up and rattle its quills to try and scare a threat away. But a really angry, cornered porcupine may
even dash or swing at its attacker to impale it. North American porcupine quills have specialized
barbs that help them penetrate skin with even less force than a similar-sized hypodermic
needle would need. Kind of like a serrated knife compared to
a flat one. And once those quills are stuck in something,
they detach pretty easily from the porcupine’s body, but the barbed tips make them really
hard to pull out. Researchers are even looking into these quills
to develop better medical technology, like needles or stitches to stick tissues together. So surprising a porcupine is still a pretty
bad idea, but it can’t actually fire quills at you like missiles. The phrase “blind as a bat” gets tossed
around quite a bit. It’s a classic cliche. But bats actually /aren’t/ blind — they
have eyes and can see. Some bats, especially large species that eat
fruit and nectar, can see as well as or maybe even better than humans. They rely on their eyes and noses to find
food! Bat species that hunt insects, though, tend
to have smaller eyes and rely on an extra sense called echolocation to forage at night. They make tiny squeaks or clicks with their
mouths or nostrils, usually too high-pitched for humans to hear. Then, highly sensitive receptor cells in their
ears detect any subtle frequency changes of returning echos to figure out what’s nearby
— like a tasty mosquito. Bats can definitely see and echolocate well
enough to avoid flying into your hair accidentally, and they have zero interest in getting into
it on purpose. A bat may swoop low over your head if you’re
outdoors at night, but it’s just going after a flying insect that happens to be nearby
— not you. So when it comes to painting an accurate picture
of biology, a lot of cartoons, kids’ books, and common expressions have a lot to answer
for. It turns out Winnie the Pooh and Bugs Bunny
are not super accurate examples of their species. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow,
and if you want to watch more videos starring all kinds of animals, including a lot of the
ones on this list, check our sister channel Animal Wonders at youtube.com/animalwondersmontana ♪Outro♪


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