Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Top Ten Mammals That Look Like Something They Aren't (Part 2)

Here is Part 2 of this duo of posts.  For Part 1, click HERE.  What are these two posts about?  Well, 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!

5.  Civets and genets - These two groups of animals are quite possibly some of the most unknown animals that are around today.  Members of the family Viverridae in the order Carnivora, if someone does in fact see one, they usually just assume that they are cats, dogs, or something else along those lines.  The family that the viverrids are most closely related to are, in fact, the cats, but they are also related to they hyenas and the mongooses.

4.  Maned Wolf - The maned wolf is neither a wolf, as its name implies, or a fox, as its outward appearance would indicate.  It is related to both, and is in the family Canidae (the dog family) just like wolves and foxes, but it is thought to be most closely related to the South American bush dog.  Interestingly, although small vertebrate prey is quite important to the maned wolf, it eats a great deal of fruits and vegetables, with the most frequently consumed fruit called the wolf apple.

A slightly fuzzy picture of a brown-morph black bear right outside of our tent-cabin in Yosemite!  Photo Credit: Julie Neher
3.  Black Bear - When it comes to the names of the three bears that inhabit North America, they can be very misleading indeed.  ESPECIALLY the black bear, for the black bear, like many other animals throughout the world (including, of course, humans), has different color morphs.  The black bear is, of course, most frequently black.  However, some of the time, the black bear is actually brown, or cinnamon colored, which is not to be confused with the ACTUAL brown bear (or grizzly bear).  In Alaska and northwest Canada, there is the "glacier" color morph, a grey-blue phase.  But I think my favorite is the "Kermode" color phase, which is exclusive to the coast of British Columbia.  This bear is a creamy-white color, and looks a heck of a lot like the polar bear!  How very, very confusing!

2.  Thylacosmilus - Over the course of mammalian evolution, the marsupials have spat out a large number of look-alikes, or animals that evolved via convergent evolution to appear a great deal like other animals throughout the world.  One of the most amazing of all of these (by far, in my opinion) is Thylacosmilus, a marsupial carnivore from the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs of South America.  Thylacosmilus convergently evolved to resemble the saber-toothed cats of North America.  Unfortunately, following the creation of the Isthmus of Panama that connected North and South America around 2 MYA, the saber-toothed cats like Smilodon moved down the newly-formed land bridge to colonize South America during the Great American Interchange, outcompeting Thylacosmilus in the process.

1.  Raccoon Dog - The raccoon dog is a fantastic case of an animal that is now that it appears to be.  You take one look at it, and you decide conclusively that you are looking at a raccoon, no doubt about it.  Your second and third takes yield the same result.  However, the raccoon dog is not a raccoon, as both its name and appearance might indicate: its a canid, through and through!  Listed as "Least Concern" by the IUCN, the raccoon dog is native to eastern Asia, and is not very closely related to any extant species of dog.  Just a tip, if you are trying to make someone look foolish, showing them a picture of a raccoon dog and having them guess what animal it is is an excellent way to show off your animal-prowess.  Unless they know what it is, in which case you will be the more foolish.

Thanks for joining us tonight for our top ten list!  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! 

1 comment:

  1. The photo titled "A black color-phase of the black bear" may have come from the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, but I am the photographer who took the photo, Suzann Julien. The Dept of Fish and Wildlife did not give me credit for the photo.
    The photo was taken in Portage, Alaska. You can see the photo at sbjulien.smugmug.com or at istock.com


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