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Are bats actually blind? Do ostriches really stick their head in the ground? Do we know ANYTHING about animals? It's a wild world out there, and lots of cute, cuddly creatures are pretty dang misunderstood. Let's break down some common misconceptions about animals.

Misconceptions: A curious show where we debunk common myths, mistakes, and misconceptions about the world.


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Hi, I'm Elliott, this is Mental Floss Video. Today I'm going to talk about some misconceptions about animals. I'm so excited.

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Misconception number one: Bats are blind.

They actually use sight and echolocation to get around, and this goes for all bats. Experts have yet to find a species of blind bats. They need sight because echolocation only works for short distances. 

One study found that the maximum range of a bat's sonar system was about 8 feet, though it greatly depends on atmospheric conditions so they tend to use a lot of visual cues to navigate from place to place.

Misconception number two: Ostriches stick their heads in the sand.

This myth goes all the way back to something Pliny the Elder wrote in the first century CE. He didn't know what he was talking about.

Sometimes ostriches do this, but they're actually digging nests. It's the male ostrich's job to build a nest for eggs and they can be 6 to 8 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep. Then, both male and female ostriches will take turns rotating the eggs.

So, from far away, it might look like their heads are in the sand, but they're actually in a hole.

Misconception number three: You should pee on a jellyfish sting.

Okay, so you'll probably be happy to know that if you get stung by a jellyfish, your day doesn't need to get worse by having a friend pee on it. Or better, depending on what you're into.

According to experts, urine actually makes the sting hurt more. Basically, when a jellyfish stings a person, what's happening is a bunch of cells known as nematocites (nematocysts) in a jellyfish's tentacles are inserting venom into the person's skin.

To get that to stop, you should leave the water, find something to remove the tentacles with, then apply an acidic compound, like vinegar, to your skin.

Misconception number four: Goldfish turn white in a dark room.

Guys, don't leave your pets in a dark room. Okay? That is so rude.

Anyway, a goldfish will lighten in color if it's left in the dark for a long time. The chromatophore cells in fish produce pigment based on surrounding light, and less pigment will be produced in a dark space.

But as long as you're feeding the fish, it will maintain some color. Goldfish eat food that have carotenoids in them, which are another type of pigment, so that keeps them from turning totally white.

(phew) Good.

Misconception number five: Chameleons can change color for camouflage.

First of all, only some chameleons can turn to a bunch of different colors. A lot of them are only capable of going from green to brown or gray. And chameleons are able to change colors because they have both chromatophores in their skin, just like the ones in goldfish.

They also have a nanocrystal guanine lattice, which is really fun to say. This lattice can tighten or loosen based on signals of chameleon neurotransmitters, so they might change colors for many reasons, including stress, shifts in body temperature, communication, and/or mating.

Misconception number six: Mother birds will reject their babies if they're returned to the nest.

So, some say that mother birds can smell the human who touched the baby bird so the mom will reject it. While there is debate about how good a bird's sense of smell is, it's universally agreed that a little human scent isn't going to make a mother abandon its children.

If you find a baby bird that doesn't have feathers, it's very young and known as a nestling. These can be lifted and returned to the nest.

Fledglings, which are older and have feathers, should be left alone because they're supposed to be out of the nest. They're learning.

Misconception number seven: Lemmings commit mass suicide.

This myth started because lemming populations tend to be unstable. Sometimes there's huge amounts of them and other times they're on the cusp of extinction. Eventually, people started theorizing that the animals would all run off cliffs together.

Then, in the 1958 Oscar-winning documentary White Wilderness produced by Disney, the crew actually staged a lemming suicide. They forced a herd off a cliff, which really cemented the myth.

But, in reality, lemmings do not do this and experts still don't know why their populations vary in number so much.

Misconception number eight: The color red makes bulls angry.

Actually, bulls can't see the color red. The thing that bugs them is the way the matador moves it around really fast.

People have conducted experiments in which they try to get bulls to charge at capes of various colors and the bulls do not distinguish between red capes and other ones. They're just.... easily angered, I guess.

Misconception number nine: Camels store water in their humps.

Guys... no, they don't, okay?

It's true that camels can go for a very long time without water. They can walk upwards of a hundred miles without needing it, but that isn't because they're keeping extra water in their humps.

Actually, those humps are made up of fat. They don't help the camel survive when they're thirsty. Instead, the fat is used for energy when camels are hungry and there's no food around.

Misconception number ten: Poisonous animals and venomous animals are the same.

There's actually a difference.

Poisonous animals contain dangerous toxins in or on their bodies, so if you touch or eat the animal, you're in trouble. Examples include poison dart frogs and pacific newts.

A venomous animal physically injects a dangerous toxin into another being with fangs or a stinger. Male platypus are an example of this. They probably use their ability to attack other males during mating season.

Thank you for watching Misconceptions on Mental Floss Video. If you have a topic for an upcoming Misconceptions spisode that you would like to see, leave it in the comments and I'll see you next week, guys. Bye.

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