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Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
Shark jumps out of the water. Photo Credit: Alexyz3d/Shutterstock

9. Sharks Don’t Suffocate If They Stop Swimming

The myth that sharks have to keep swimming or else they will suffocate is only partially true (via Business Insider). Some breeds of sharks are unable to pass water over their gills on their own, so they have to continue swimming to breathe. However, other sharks can pass water over their gills without swimming. That means they are able to rest on the seafloor for extended periods. One fascinating fact about sharks is that they can swim at different depths. How? Because they do not have a swim bladder. This body part is an adaptation that other fish have.

A swim bladder fills with varying amounts of air to provide buoyance that allows the fish to swim at a certain depth (via Brittanica). If it goes too deep or too shallow without giving the swim bladder time to adjust, the fish puts its life in danger. Because sharks do not have a swim bladder, their bodies do not compress or decompress with the depth, and therefore, they can swim up and down the entire water column. They also have enormous livers with a lot of oil, which is lighter than water and gives them added buoyancy. No wonder sharks have been around since before the first dinosaurs came into existence! Keep reading about more animal myths that follow these creepy water creatures!

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
Smooth sting ray swims on sandy ocean floor. Photo Credit: Katherine OBrien/Shutterstock

8. Not All Rays Are Poisonous

In fact, only one kind of ray is poisonous. Rays are closely related to sharks, and they are so similar that some sharks look like rays and vice-versa. Rays are generally much flatter, almost like flattened sharks. They may not hold the same power over our psyches are sharks do, but they are an incredibly diverse species. There are more than 600 different kinds of rays, and they live everywhere, from the frigid Antarctic waters to the warm seas (via Deep Ocean Facts). Many live in freshwater rivers in South America. Some sharks can travel into freshwater, but there are no species of sharks that can live exclusively in freshwater.

The only kind of ray that has a poisonous stinger is the stingray (via AMNH). Nevertheless, even among stingrays, there is an incredible level of diversity. There are about 185 species and 35 that live solely in freshwater habitats. The stings are used solely for defense and are triggered when the ray feels pressure on its back. People who live in areas with stingrays know that they need to shuffle their feet in the water rather than walk. That way, instead of stepping on the stingrays, they kick them out of the way. One of the very few human deaths caused by stingrays was that of Steve Irwin, the “Crocodile Hunter,” when he was filming a documentary.

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
The flock of silk sharks at the surface of the sea. Photo Credit: Shpatak/Shutterstock

7. And Not All Sharks Are Dangerous

Are you ready for more animal myths about sharks? Sharks hold such a strong sway over our imaginations that many people believe, falsely, that all sharks are dangerous and should be avoided at all costs. The second part is mostly true; sharks are wild animals, and wild animals should be left alone. The first part is patently untrue. About 350 species of sharks swim in the world’s oceans. Plus, only a few of them are considered dangerous to humans. Many of them are too small to pose any real threat (via AMNH). Furthermore, 75% of all shark species are either unable to harm a human or unlikely to ever come into contact with a human.

Two species of sharks, the whale shark and the basking shark, do not even have any visible teeth, and they primarily consume plankton (via Ocean Info). You are actually 30 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to be attacked by a shark. Besides, you should remember that an attack does not necessarily mean a fatality. Most sharks are predators, but they are not looking for humans to devour. Instead, they generally eat fish and other ocean-dwelling creatures. Seals and sea lions are a favorite for larger species, and when a human does become a victim of a shark attack, they usually wear a wet suit that looks like a seal.

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
Pigeons on the street. Photo Credit: PauliusPeleckis/Shutterstock

6. Wedding Rice Does Not Kill Birds

The tradition of throwing rice at weddings dates back to the Middle Ages and is based on practices in Ancient Egypt. However, many modern wedding planners now opt for bubbles instead of rice out of the misguided belief that wedding rice kills birds. Their intentions are certainly benevolent (there is no need to kill birds unnecessarily!). The fact is that wedding rice does not kill birds. Many people have heard that the rice expands in the birds’ stomachs and causes them to explode, but this story, like others on this list, are all complete myths (via Ranker). The rice thrown at weddings is just like any other rice before it is cooked.

Cooked rice certainly does expand, usually to about double its original size. However, it does not expand nearly enough to cause harm to the pigeons and other birds that may eat it. In reality, the birdseed that they normally consume expands in their stomachs more than rice does (via Mental Floss). That means the wedding rice they may nibble on is hardly even a snack. However, birds should certainly not be fed human foods regularly, as it does not contain the nutrients they need and can cause them to die of starvation. Next time you go to a pond hoping to feed some ducks, instead of bread, give them grapes that have been cut in half or other foods that are more appropriate to their diets.

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
Smiling Pit Bull among the Flowers. Photo Credit: Matthew Lyon/Shutterstock

5. Pit Bulls Are No More Dangerous Than Other Dog Breeds

Animal shelters routinely fill up with pit bulls because people are reluctant to adopt them, out of a misguided belief that pit bulls are particularly harmful and dangerous breeds. Based on these unfounded myths, some homeowner’s insurance policies actually prohibit the insurance holder from owning a pit bull at the resi myth (via Forbes). In reality, these doggies are super playful and affectionate, and many pit bull owners would not have any other dog! The exception is when pit bulls have been specifically trained to be forceful, and when this is the case, they are as dangerous as other dogs who have been trained to be aggressive.

Many other dog breeds that make excellent family pets have been bred from originally quite aggressive dogs. For example, if you have a German shepherd, a Doberman, or a Rottweiler, you have a dog whose ancestors were originally bred to protect (via The Spruce Pets). For this reason, these dogs make excellent guard dogs and will instinctively protect their humans. They are not necessarily aggressive, though, unless trained to be. If you consider adopting a dog to be a family pet, a pit bull would be an excellent option. Call your animal shelter, explain what concerns you may have about aggression, and let the professional staff help you find the best dog for you.

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
Brown harvestman relaxing on a leaf. Photo Credit: by pap/Shutterstock

4. Daddy Long Legs Are Not Poisonous

When people think of this specific spider, they often imagine what they believe to be the most poisonous spider in the world. However, the moniker often given to spiders with skinny, long legs is not exactly accurate. Many pholcid spiders are referred to as daddy long legs when they actually have a different name (via Ranker). Moreover, if you happen to encounter one of these spiders (or spider-like creatures, because some critters that people refer to as “daddy long legs” are not even spiders), you do not need to worry about a poisonous bite. There are simply no records of these spiders biting a human and causing any level of harm (via NCBI).

If there were the potential for harm, scientists would have done studies involving milking the spiders for venom and injecting the poison into a test subject to determine the reaction. After all, if there is the potential for harm, pharmaceutical companies would want to capitalize on any potential antidote! This experiment has never been done because there has never been the threat of harm. In fact, there have never been toxicology studies performed on any pholcid spiders, as they do not pose a threat to humans (via Healtline). Some spiders do. Daddy long legs and other pholcids are just not in that category but keep reading about other animal myths.

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
Wet nose dog sleeping. Photo Credit: Yulia YasPe/Shutterstock

3. Wet Noses Do Not Indicate a Healthy Dog

There are several animal myths surrounding man’s best friend. Popular wisdom suggests that a dog with a wet nose is healthy, and a dog with a dry nose is sick. However, this is simply not true. The wetness on a dog’s nose is very similar to the sweat on a human’s skin and indicates the level of activity, not overall health (via VCA). Dogs actually have mucous glands on their nose that help them smell better, and when they lick their noses, they are sampling whatever it is that they have just smelled. If you are concerned that your dog may not feel well, do not touch its nose to determine for yourself. A wet and cold nose has nothing to do with dog sickness.

If you are concerned about determining whether or not your dog is sick, look for significant changes in your dog’s behavior (via Ranker). If Fido is not eating as much as usual or acting lethargic instead of his energetic self, there is probably a problem. Generally, you should call your vet if you have a concern. If the vet does not say to bring the dog in right away, monitor its condition for 24 hours to see if things worsen. If they do, bring the dog in right away. A dog who is listless, wheezing, or has a runny nose should be taken to the vet immediately because its condition is likely life-threatening.

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
A Grizzly Bear in Alaska taking a rest on a fallen tree. Photo Credit: Adam Van Spronsen/Shutterstock

2. Bears Do Not Actually Hibernate for the Winter

Bears and hibernation go together like peanut butter and jelly. Whenever children learn about bears in school, one of the first things that they are taught is that bears sleep through the winter during a period called hibernation. Nevertheless, in reality, what bears do is not true hibernation, meaning they do not go entirely dormant for the entire season. They go into more of a state of suspended animation that includes a very deep and long sleep that resembles hibernation. However, these bears will undoubtedly wake up if necessary. So, if you ever encounter a sleeping bear during the winter, do not try to poke at it! It very well could wake up and give you a very, very bad time.

Let’s put some true behind these myths. Rodents are the champions of hibernation, particularly Arctic squirrels (via BBC). These guys usually have a body temperature of about 99 degrees Fahrenheit. However, during the winter months, they can drop their body temperatures to below freezing. Then, bears go into a period of complete dormancy for several weeks. They then wake up to warm their body temperatures up, then go back to sleep for the remainder of the winter. Unlike squirrels, bears do not cool their body temperatures in the winter, and this drop is a core component of true hibernation. They take a long nap that helps them survive food scarcity (via Ranker).

Debunking Top Animal Myths People Actually Believe
A huge brown bull is standing in a field. Photo Credit: Dragonna/Shutterstock

1. Bulls Do Not Hate the Color Red

Here is the final one of the wildest animal myths that most people still believe. This myth may be one of the last to die in the world of animal mythology (via Ranker). Matadors, or Spanish bullfighters, began using red capes in the 1700s as part of their technique of getting the bull to charge and exciting the crowd. However, the trigger that gets bulls to charge is the cape itself, not the color. They will charge at capes that are purple, blue, yellow, green, or any other color. Nevertheless, red seems to be a fan favorite and a tradition in this Spanish pastime. The tradition is so deep that matadors generally wear costumes that match the red cape and never fathom any other color.

There are many other myths about animals. One is that the wolfpack leader is alpha when in reality, wolfpacks function much more like human families and have a complex social structure (via Mental Floss). Another is that lice prefer long and oily hair. Nevertheless, lice are equal opportunity invaders. Moreover, that hump on a camel’s back does not store water. A camel can go for up to a week without water, but not because it is sucking up fluids from underneath its ubiquitous hump. The hump is actually full of fatty tissue to help the animal survive long stretches without food. In reality, they are so effective at extracting water from their food and storing it in their kidneys that they can go without fluids for several days.