Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Mammals That Look Like Something They Aren't (Part 1)

Today, we are going to be taking a "Top Ten" look at some mammals that look a lot like something they aren't.  Sometimes, these two animals are fairly closely related: other times, they are quite far apart!  All of these examples will be results of a fascinating phenomenon known as "Convergent Evolution," which is where similar ecological and environmental factors cause two very different animals to evolve in a similar fashion.  So let's dive right in!  But first, this is the birthday post of Joseph Kleinkopf, happy birthday Joseph! (For Part 2, animals 5-1 of the countdown, click HERE.)

10.  Bear Dogs - As their name implies, the bear-dogs are a group of mammalian carnivores that greatly resemble both bears and dogs.  However, they are neither!  According to The Big Cats and their Fossil Relatives by Alan Turner, they are thought to be fairly closely related to dogs, and more distantly related to bears.  Their remains are most commonly found in North America, although they are also found in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Temporally, these animals lived during the Miocene Epoch, and are though to have arisen about 15 MYA, and fallen into extinction around 12 million years ago (MYA).

9.  Entelodonts - The Entelodonts, frequently referred to as "Hell" or "Terminator Pigs" greatly resemble the extant (still around, opposite of extinct) pigs and peccaries.  However, they are in a separate family from both the pigs and the peccaries, the family Entelodontidae, but all three do reside in the order Artiodactyla.  Some paleontologists believe that these guys are more closely related to whales and their relatives than pigs, but their exact phylogenetic relationship is unclear.  They inhabited North America and Europe during the Oligocene Epoch, around 34-32 MYA. 

8.  Hyrax - This little guy looks like he would be a rodent, but his true relatives are actually much more surprising!  Weighing between about 5 and 10 pounds, the hyraxes are actually fairly closely related to the members of the family Proboscidea, or the elephants and their relatives!  The extant hyraxes have their own family, Hyracoidea, but their ancient ancestors are thought to have branched into the extant hyraxes, the elephants and kin, and most likely the manatee and its relatives!  Hyraxes are found exclusively in Africa and the Middle East.

7.  Red Panda - The red panda has a long history of uncertainty in regards to its phylogenetic relationship to other animals, as has its namesake, the giant panda.  However, now we know that the giant panda is in the family Ursidae, or the bear family, and the red panda is now classified in its own family, Ailuridae, closely related to the mustelids, raccoons, and more, distantly bears.  For more information about the red panda, click HERE.  For more information about the giant panda, click HERE.

6.  Rabbits and Pikas - Even up until just a few years ago, I had assumed that the rabbits and the pikas were both rodents.  They look a lot like them, and they share the trait of continually growing teeth.  However, the members of the order Lagomorpha, which is the order that includes the rabbits and the pikas, differs from the order Rodentia in that they possess four incisors, as opposed to two for the rodents.  Furthermore, most rodents are omnivorous, while the lagomorphs are almost entirely strictly herbivorous.

For Part 2, animals 5-1 of the countdown, click HERE.

And remember, if you have a birthday coming up, just email me the date at cuyvaldar123946@gmail.com with the date and your favorite animal, and I will do my best to get a post in! 

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