Commonly Misidentified Animals

2 icons of a dolphin and porpoise

If you’re like me, you love being right. Nothing makes me happier than listening to a friend or coworker say something wrong, then stepping up to rub your expanse of knowledge right in their uneducated face! This article is devoted to that feeling. Whether you have a true interest in the identity of misidentified animals, or you just want to show some chump that he needs to reevaluate his high school education, this article is for you.

Seal vs Sea Lion

Seal on icy terrain
Sea lion on rocky terrain

These semi-aquatic creatures share a similar appearance, but are fairly different in behavior. Sea lions are loud, group dwelling animals, while seals prefer the solo life. These pinnipeds are similar in size, adapted for different lives. Seals are made for life primarily in the water, while sea lions are adapted for life on the land. Sea lions have much larger flippers, that rotate into a position that allows them to “walk” on land. Seals are condemned to a life a waddling and sliding. In the water, seals have the upper hand, with small flippers, angled backward for speed. An easy way to differentiate is by looking at the head of the unidentified creature. Sea lions have distinct ears, while seals have small holes.

Crocodile vs Alligator

By © Tomas Castelazo, / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,

While both these reptiles are apart of the Crocodylia family, there are a few features that change the identity of the predator. Alligators are typically gray or green, while crocodiles are black. Alligators have a narrower, V shaped snout, and Crocodiles have a shorter, but wider, U shaped snout. The crocodile displays teeth from both jaws, while the alligator shows only the upper teeth. Alligators reside in primarily freshwater, but crocodiles can live in saltwater in addition to freshwater. Regardless, both are very dangerous animals that are not to be reckoned with.

Dolphin vs Porpoise

Dolphin in clear blue water

Dolphins and Porpoises are fairly similar, but all the same, some people need to be corrected. Porpoises only live in the Pacific Ocean, while dolphins are in all oceans. Porpoises are typically smaller and more stout than dolphins, and they have a triangular dorsal fin (like a shark) while dolphins have a curved fin. Dolphins have a rounded head, with a long beak, and porpoises have a round head with blunt beak. One of the biggest differences, other than the beak, is the type of teeth. Dolphins have conical, sharp teeth, and porpoises have flat, grinding teeth. Dolphins adapt much better to captivity, and a very social. They show little fear of humans, making them much more likely to be the featured at a marine animal show.

Possum vs Opossum

possum surrounded by leaves in a tree

These may be one of the most commonly mistaken animals on the list. Possums are found in Australia, and Opossums are found in North America. Possums are reddish brown, and opossums are silver or gray. The tail of the opossum is bald, and the possums tail is fury. Possums have medium length fur, and a thick protective skin. Opossums have coarse hair, and are the root of the phrase “playing possum” (ironically). This is due to a defense mechanism that causes them to go into an involuntary state of shock. Possums are larger, and have a longer lifespan, of about 5-6 years, compared to the opossums 2-4 year expectancy. Both animals are considered pests, but are relatively harmless.

Donkey vs Mule

mule with a pack on its back

These quadrupedal critters are very commonly mistaken, and are fairly similar. The technical defining factor of the species is genealogy. Simply put, a mule is the hybrid offspring of a Jack (male donkey) and a Mare (female horse). This is why mules look fairly similar to horses. Mules are generally taller than donkeys, and share a body shape of a horse. Donkeys are shorter and muscular, with smaller legs. Mules inherit the desirable feature of donkeys, such as strength, intelligence, hard hooves, while getting the body size, coat uniformity, and teeth of a horse. Donkeys have a dorsal stripe crossing there shoulders, making them easy to identify. Male mules, also called jacks, cannot reproduce, as they cannot produce a haploid cell. This is caused by the chromosome transfer in the making of this hybrid. Female mules, called mollys, are usually unable to reproduce, but in some cases, they have bear young.

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