A list of common misconceptions


  • Warts on human skin are caused by viruses that are unique to humans (Human papillomavirus), and not by proximity to, or contact with, toads.
  • Koalas are not bears. They are not even placental mammals; they are marsupials. The giant panda, however, is a bear, while the red panda is closely related to raccoons.
  • Some bats use echolocation to navigate whilst flying in darkness. Bats are not blind, however. Their eyes are small and poorly developed, but they are still capable of sight, particularly long-range; and in fact can be severely disoriented by excessive light.
  • The claim that a duck’s quack doesn’t echo is false.
  • Jellyfish and starfish are not fish. They are Cnidarians and Echinoderms respectively. Many scientists refer to them as “sea jellies” and “sea stars”.
  • Polar bears do not eat penguins. Polar bears only live in the Arctic, while penguins are not native to the northern hemisphere.
  • The notion that goldfish have a memory of only three seconds is completely false. They have been trained to navigate mazes and can recognise their owners after an exposure of a few months.
  • Lemmings do not engage in suicidal dives off cliffs when migrating. This misconception is due largely to the Disney film White Wilderness, which shot many of the “migration” scenes on a large turntable in a studio. Photographers later pushed the lemmings off a cliff using a broom.
  • Mammal blood is bright red or scarlet when oxygenated and a darker red when not oxygenated. It is never blue. Veins appear blue through the skin because of Rayleigh scattering, the same effect responsible for the blue sky.
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