• Weird Nature

16 Untrue Myths About Animals

We've all heard these things about animal behaviors - and we've all believed them. In fact, many of these animal myths have been around for so long, some people get angry when you debunk them. However, these oft-repeated "facts" have only anecdotal evidence to back them up, not scientific data. These are a select few myths about animals - 16, to be exact - that many still believe, but which science tells us are just not true.

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  • Toads Give You Warts

    Photo: Camerauthor / Shutterstock

    The myth: Toads give you warts.

    The truth: This myth probably came into existence when mothers wanted a way to have their children stop picking up animals outside for fear they might carry disease. The lumpy toad - or any toad, for that matter - won't give you warts. These lumps help toads live in dry climates, unlike most frogs, which require moisture. This trait also helps toads blend into their environment with textures made possible by the wart-like protrusions. Those bumps may be a unique physical characteristic, but they can't be transferred to humans.

  • Daddy Longlegs Are The Most Poisonous Spiders

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    The myth: Daddy longlegs are poisonous.

    The truth: There's probably a lot you don't know about this spider. For one thing, the spider you think is a daddy longlegs might actually be something else. There is a daddy longlegs spider, but in England the creature with this name isn't a spider at all. The long-legged cellar spider is an example of a daddy longlegs and is probably the reference point for this myth.

    The thing is, there's no record of a pholcid spider ever biting a human and causing any kind of reaction. If they were really poisonous, the only way we would know is if we had milked them and injected the venom into humans. This has not been done. And there are no toxicology studies of any kind showing the effects of pholocid venom on any mammal.

  • Ostriches Bury Their Heads In Sand

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    The myth: Ostriches bury their head in the sand.

    The truth: This myth probably came from the fact that ostriches, like many other kinds of birds, eat pebbles and sand to help them digest their food. They also turn their eggs with their beaks, another thing that makes them put their heads near the ground. If an ostrich put its head in the sand as we once believed, it would probably suffocate and die.

  • Lemmings Commit Mass Suicide When Migrating

    Photo: jonanderswiken / Shutterstock

    The myth: Lemmings are suicidal.

    The truth: During the filming of a 1958 Disney "documentary" White Wilderness (which won an Academy Award for Documentary Feature), filmmakers staged footage of lemmings jumping to their death after faking scenes of mass migration. A Canadian documentary called Cruel Camera that came out years later found the lemmings used for White Wilderness were flown from Hudson Bay to Calgary, where they did not jump off the cliff, but in fact were launched off the cliff using a turntable.

    Lemmings do not hurl themselves off cliffs. They do migrate, and sometimes during these migrations they will fall off cliffs or into rivers - accidentally, like many other migratory species.