Who hasn’t shared an amazing science fact about sharks, cats, bats, ostriches, or other animals, only to feel embarrassed later on when you find out the information was wrong?
It’s time to put an end to these myths, misconceptions, and inaccuracies about animals passed down through the ages.
To help the cause we’ve rounded up and corrected dozens of the more popular myths we keep hearing repeated.
Have any favorites we missed? Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This one is no longer true.
Before April 2012, Starbucks’ strawberry Frappucino contained a dye made from the ground-up bodies of thousands of tiny insects, called cochineal bugs (orDactylopius coccus).
Farmers in South and Central America make a living harvesting and smashing the bugs that go into the dye. Their crushed bodies produce a deep red ink that is used as a natural food coloring, which was “called cochineal” red but is now called “carmine color.”
Starbucks stopped using carmine color in their strawberry Frappucinos in 2012. But the dye is still used in thousands of other food products from Nerds candies to grapefruit juice. Not to mention cosmetics, like lovely shades of red lipstick.
You’ve probably heard that a secretion called castoreum, isolated from the anal gland of a beaver, is used in flavorings and perfumes.
But castoreum is so expensive, at up to $70 per pound of anal gland (the cost to humanely milk castoreum from a beaver is likely even higher), that it’s unlikely to show up in anything you eat.
In 2011, the Vegetarian Resource Group wrote to five major companies that produce vanilla flavoring and asked if they use castoreum. The answer: According to the Federal Code of Regulations, they can’t. (The FDA highly regulates what goes into vanilla flavoring and extracts.)
It’s equally unlikely you’ll find castoreum in mass-marketed goods, either.
Dogs and cats have much better color visionthan we thought.
Both dogs and cats can see in blue and green, and they also have more rods the light-sensing cells in the eye than humans do, so they can see better in low-light situations.
This myth probably comes about because each animal sees colors differently than humans.
Reds and pinks may appear more green to cats, while purple may look like another shade of blue. Dogs, meanwhile, have fewer cones the color-sensing cells in the eye so scientists estimated that their color vision is only about 1/7th as vibrant as ours.
Lemmings do not commit mass suicide.
During their migrations they sometimes do fall off cliffs, or if they wander into an area they are unfamiliar with.
No one knows exactly when the myth started, but a 1958 Disney video called “White Wilderness,”which won an Oscar for best documentary feature, has emerged over the years as the likeliest suspect but the “documentary” was faked.
Back in 2013, researchers reported a huge tumor growing out of the mouth of a great white shark, and another on the head of a bronze whaler shark.
And those aren’t the only cases of shark cancers. Other scientists have reported tumors in dozens of different shark species.
The myth that sharks don’t get cancer was created by I. William Lane to sell shark cartilage as a cancer treatment.
Ostriches do not stick their heads in the sand when threatened. In fact, they don’t bury their heads at all.
When threatened, ostriches sometimes flop on the ground and play dead.
Source: San Diego Zoo
Frogs or toads won’t give you warts, but shaking hands with someone who has warts can.
The human papillomavirus is what gives people warts, and it is unique to humans.
Many people would call this dinosaur a Brontosaurus even Michael Crichton did in “Jurassic Park.”
It is actually called the Apatosaurus. The myth emerged some 130 years ago during a feud between two paleontologists.
This one is a big exaggeration. Jaws is not coming for you from across the ocean if you bleed in the water.
Shark have a highly enlarged brain region for smelling odors, allowing some of the fish to detect as little as one part blood per 10 billion parts water roughly a drop in an Olympic-size swimming pool.
But it the ocean is much, much, much bigger and it takes awhile for odor molecules to drift. On a very good day when the currents are favorable, a shark can smell its prey from a few football fields away not miles.
DeeAnn Reeder/Bucknell University
Being “blind as a bat” means not being blind at all.
While many use echolocation to navigate, all of them can see.
Source: USA Today
Giraffes have fairly typical sleeping patterns.
To debunk this one, researchers closely monitored a herd of five adult and three young giraffes for 152 days, counting all of their naps and deep sleeps.
The animals typically slept overnight and napped in the afternoon (sound familiar?).
In total, each giraffe slept about 4.6 hours every day.
Source: European Sleep Research Society
You often hear sharks can breathe only when swimming pushes water over their gills.
That’s true of some sharks, but many others like bottom-dwelling nurse sharks can pump oxygen-rich water over their gills without swimming.
All sharks lack swim bladders, however, so if they stop swimming they will sink to the bottom. Luckily a shark’s body is incompressible and rapid descents or ascents don’t harm them.
Poinsettias won’t kill you or your pets, though you still shouldn’t eat them.
The flowers might make you a bit sick with some gastrointestinal issues.
Source: The New York Botanical Garden
flickr user: kvn.jns
HIV probably didn’t jump to humans through human-monkey sex.
It probably jumped to humans through hunting of monkeys for bushmeat food, which led to blood-to-blood contact.
Alain Houle/BMC Ecology Image Competition
Chimps and humans share uncanny similarities, not the least of which is our DNA about 98.8% is identical.
However, evolution works by incremental genetic changes adding up through many, many generations. Chimps and humans did share a common ancestor between 6 and 8 million years ago but a lot has changed since then.
Modern chimps evolved into a separate (though close) branch of the ape family tree.