03/04/2013 07:46 am ET | Updated Mar 04, 2013

Animal Facts & Myths Debunked By Wildlife Experts (VIDEO)

There are many misleading animal myths out there (case in point: "blind as a bat") -- but did you know that some are actually based in truth? For instance, "crocodile tears" are kind of a real thing.

To separate animal facts from fiction, I visited the Wildlife Learning Center in Sylmar, California and spoke with cofounders Paul Hahn and David Riherd. They helped me sort through nine interesting animal truths and myths that every science nerd should know.

Count them down with me in the video above and/or click the link below to read a transcript of the interview. Do you have any cool facts or funny myths to add to the list? Leave them at the bottom of the page in the comments section. Come on, talk nerdy to me!


CARA SANTA MARIA: Hi everyone. Cara Santa Maria here. Have you ever wondered if snakes can really unhinge their jaws or if crocodile tears are a real thing? And if a baby bird falls out of a nest, will touching it make mama want to stay away? I visited the Wildlife Learning Center and spoke to cofounders Paul Haun and David Riherd to separate fact from fiction. So join me as I countdown nine myths in the animal kingdom. Coming in at number nine: Are bats really blind?

PAUL HAUN: It’s a common myth that bats are blind, because they have such an awesome echolocation system, but the fact is that bat’s vision ranges from fair to poor, but none of them are blind.

CSM: And what about birds? If you touch a baby chick, will it prevent the mother from caring for it?

PH: That’s absolutely not true. It’s not based on olfaction, you know, they’re not going to smell a dangerous human on a chick and not take care of it.

CSM: Oh, here's a good one. We've heard about chickens running around with their heads cut off. At number seven, can any other animals do the same thing?

PH: If you cut off a cockroach's head they can live for up to eight days! And it’s not because their body’s shutting down, it’s simply because they’re running out of food to operate their systems.

CSM: Holy crap! They really are going to inherit the earth. Speaking of creepy crawlies, I've heard a lot of folk wisdom about snakes. Is the bite of a baby rattlesnake more powerful than an adult? Do they unhinge their jaws when they eat large prey?

DAVID RIHERD: That’s actually a myth. Baby rattlesnakes, like adult rattlesnakes, vary the amount of venom they release in almost every bite. In general the larger the snake the more venom it has and so it has the potential to release more of it. Another common myth about snakes is that they can unhinge their jaws to eat large prey. It’s actually not true, their jaws aren’t really hinged like ours are. They’re just highly flexible.

CSM: And number four is all about porcupines. Do they really shoot their quills at attackers?

DR: That’s actually not true, they’re just really loosely attached to their skin so if an attacker makes contact with them, they’re going to get poked, pull away, and that quill’s going to come right out of the porcupine lodged in the skin of the attacker.

CSM: I wonder how that little piece of folk wisdom got started. Oh, you've heard of crocodile tears, right? Do they really cry?

PH: Crocodile tears are actually kind of a real thing. In a sense, they have tears that come out of their nasal passages that come out of the inside of their eyes. So sometimes we’ll see them puffing little bubbles of eye mucus out of their eyes, and I guess you could call those tears.

CSM: Ew. And what about ostriches? Do they actually bury their heads in the sand?

PH: That’s really not true. Maybe where this myth came from is that ostriches will stick their heads in an ostrich nest to roll the eggs, to keep the eggs moving, and if somebody saw that then extrapolated that to think that they bury their heads in the sand.

CSM: And finally, we're joined by a siberian lynx to answer the number one animal question: How about the cat nap?

PH: Cats do take long naps. That is actually true. Domestic cats tend to sleep about 16 hours a day. Whereas wild cats can sleep even more than that, and I would speculate wild cats probably burn a lot more energy and need to save their energy for specific things, where maybe domestic cats might have the luxury of playing and using their energy that way.

CSM: Well, there you have it folks! Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. Got any good animal myths for me? Send them my way! Come on, talk nerdy to me!

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