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Barcroft Media/Landov

5 Animals Disguised as Other Animals

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Barcroft Media/Landov

Dogs that look like their owners is a phenomenon that has been the subject of a book, a photo exhibit, a recent scientific study, and, of course, a BuzzFeed post. But dogs that look like African lions? Well, that’s sort of new. As are ferrets that look like poodles.  


Earlier this month, a Tibetan Mastiff being touted as an African lion at a zoo in the People's Park of Luohe in China (above) gave its canine identity away when a pint-sized visitor and his mom approached the Not-Quite-King of the Jungle’s cage and heard it barking. Ruh-roh! 


Barcroft Media /Landov

The Tibetan Mastiff isn’t the only case of mistaken animal identity at the People’s Park. Following the outing of the dog-turned-lion, additional reports surfaced that the zoo has used dogs in place of wolves (not a huge stretch) and foxes in place of leopards (definitely a huge stretch). In response to the allegations of fraud, a spokesperson for the park—which is temporarily closed—noted, “We’re doing our best in tough economic times. If anyone is unhappy with our displays, we will give back their money.”


Wild animal fake-outs are nothing new in China. In 2010, a handful of dyed dogs—including a Chow/panda and Golden Retriever/tiger—were used to attract visitors to the opening of the Dahe Pet Civilization Park in Zhengzhou, Henan.


With all that facial fuzz, it’s hard to tell what a toy poodle’s mug actually looks like. But one thing it certainly doesn’t look like is a ferret. That small fact didn’t stop a pet seller in Argentina from pumping a few ferrets full of steroids and passing them off as designer dogs.


The joke was on the hungry horseflies of Weye, Germany, when horse farm owner Claudia Wide painted zebra stripes on her black stallion after reading a study from Sweden’s Lund University. The study’s researchers discovered that zebras in the wild don’t have to contend with pesky horsefly bites because of the way their stripes reflect light.

Other Animals in Disguise

The Rubber Snake

In 1984, a regular visitor to the Houston Zoo became concerned when he noticed a coral snake had not seemed to move in nine months. The reason? It was made of rubber. “We have had live snakes in the exhibit,” curator John Donaho explained to the visitor, “but they don't do well—they tend to die.” 

The Plastic Polar Bear
Polar bear-loving visitors to the St. Louis Zoo went home fairly disappointed in 2009 when the living, breathing Arctic creatures who had called the zoo home were replaced with illuminated, plastic versions. To be fair, the zoo wasn’t hoping visitors would be fooled; the decorative versions were a temporary placeholder following the passing of the zoo’s one polar bear, Hope, while the zoo was on a waiting list for a new one.

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This Octopus Species in Northern Australia Can Hunt on Dry Land
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Most octopuses live in the ocean—but in northern Australia, a small, shallow-water species takes to land in search of food. Abdopus aculeatus is the only octopus that’s specially adapted to walk on dry ground. Using its long, sucker-lined arms, the slimy sea creature pulls itself along the shoreline as it searches tide pools for crabs.

Witness Abdopus aculeatus in action by watching BBC Earth’s video below.

[h/t BBC Earth]

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Weather Watch
Rising Temperatures Are Killing Off African Wild Dogs
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Over the last few decades, images of fluffy white harp seals, polar bears, and penguins have become shorthand for climate change's creeping destruction of our planet. But the poles aren't the only ecosystems in danger. A new study published in the Journal of Animal Ecology finds that rising temperatures near the equator are making it much harder for African wild dogs to survive.

"When people think about climate change affecting wildlife, they mostly think about polar bears," lead researcher Rosie Woodroffe of the Zoological Society of London told The Guardian. "But wild dogs are adapted to the heat—surely they'd be fine."

To find out, Woodroffe and her colleagues analyzed data from packs of African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) in Kenya, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. The dog packs have been under scientist surveillance for years—some since the late 1980s—and at least one dog per pack is fitted with a radio collar.

The researchers overlaid information about local weather and temperature with data on the dogs' hunting habits, the size of each litter of pups, and how many pups from each litter survived.

These dogs are creatures of habit. Adults rise early and leave the den for a morning hunt. They range over their large territories, chasing antelopes. At midday, when the Sun is highest, they return to their pups with food. They may go out again in the evening as the temperature drops.

But like the polar bears' glaciers, the dogs' environment is gradually heating up. All three countries saw a temperature increase of about 1.8°F over the study period. This may not sound like much, but for the dogs, it was plenty. Between 1989 and 2012, the number of pups per litter in Botswana surviving to their first birthday dropped from 5.1 to 3.3. Dog packs in Zimbabwe saw a 14 percent decrease in pup survival; in Kenya, the rate declined by 31 percent.

"It's really scary," Woodroffe said.

"If you are an animal who makes your living by running around really fast, obviously you are going to get hot. But there are not enough hours in the day anymore that are cool enough to do that. It is possible that some of these big areas will become too hot for wild dogs to exist."

Woodroffe and her colleagues were not anticipating such clear-cut results. "It is shocking and surprising that even right on the equator these effects are being seen," she said. "It illustrates the global impact of climate change." 

[h/t The Guardian]


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