Hollywood and our society in general have perpetuated many myths about some common plants and animals. For years these sayings have been passed down as TRUTH, resulting in a lot of unwarranted fear and persecution. What “FACTS” have you learned about the Natural World that are not true at all?
Here are 5 popular sayings that you may have heard. Let’s explore what’s wrong with them:
1. “You’re blind as a bat!” When I’m doing an educational bat program I always ask my audiences if they think this is true and many answer yes. This is easy to understand given the popularity of this saying. Yet, of 1300 bat species in the world, NONE ARE BLIND!
70% of bats are in a group called Microchiroptera. These bats are generally smaller and eat insects. They navigate at night using an advanced sonar system–and their eyes! These bats have eyes and CAN see during the day AND at night. True, their vision is not as advanced as many other nocturnal animals like owls but they are far from blind! The other group–Megachiroptera– are generally larger and feed mainly on fruit and nectar. These bats usually have LARGE eyes and can see quite well.
I like to tell my groups, If you ever hear the phrase ” Blind as a bat,” you should correct them by saying, “Blind as a worm.” At least worms REALLY ARE BLIND. (To read more about bats, including other myths and some cool LIVE VIDEO, CLICK HERE. To read about worms, CLICK HERE)
2. “Touching a toad will give you warts!” This is not true! Warts are the result of a virus. Toads LOOK like they have warts but these are not warts at all. Instead they are glands –called Parotoid glands–that give off a slightly poisonous substance that makes them unappealing to many predators.
3. “Daddy-long-legs are the most poisonous spiders of all but their jaws are too small to penetrate human skin.” By far this is the most common myth I encountered when I worked with children leading programs outside. Inevitably, if we saw a daddy-long-legs or if the subject came up, some all-knowing child would speak up and offer that quote. This myth is wrong on several levels.
First, daddy-long-legs ARE NOT SPIDERS! Spiders have two body parts, 4 pairs of legs, fangs, spinnerets (for producing silk) and poison (for immobilizing prey). If you’ve ever looked closely at a daddy-long-legs, you may have noticed they have only ONE body part. In addition, they do not have fangs, spinnerets or poison. Daddy-long-legs ARE related to spiders, but are not spiders. They are in a group of animals called Harvestmen. (Read more here)
4. “Quiet as a mouse.” Really? Have you ever had a mouse in your house? If so then you know, they are NOT quiet! Mice make a lot of noise. We should change it to “Quiet as a worm.” This IS true! Worms ARE quiet!
5. “Owls can turn their heads all the way around.” This is impossible. Owls DO have an amazing degree of flexibility, able to rotate 270 degrees, which is a lot more than most other animals. But their heads would pop off if they turned them all the way around! This is just not possible.
What other animals or plants have you heard sayings about and wondered about their accuracy? There are so many! In the coming weeks I will be featuring more… let me know if there’s one you’ve heard that you want me to include.