Generally speaking, you can look at a creature and tell if it is closely related to another animal. Wolves and dogs look alike and so do kangaroos and wallabies. But you can’t always judge a critter by its cover. Here are a few animal kingdom family ties that might just surprise you.
Seals and Bears
The cute and cuddly harp seal pup might look drastically different from its greatest predator, the polar bear, but biologically-speaking the two species are actually rather similar. Pinnipeds (the group containing seals, walruses and sea lions) evolved from a creature called the puijila, which is believed to have branched off from the ancestors of modern day bears. While the puijila looked like a cross between an otter and a seal, the carnivore’s strong legs and webbed toes indicate that it seems to have lived on land and hunted in the water – more like a polar bear than a modern day seal.
While it can be hard to see the similarities between bears and pinnipeds, a quick look at the clawed toes of a seal and those of a bear (above) can show you that there is definitely some common genealogy between the two.
Okapis and Giraffes
Looking at the okapi, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s related to zebras. After all, they have a similar stance and stripes. But the okapi is much more closely related to the giraffe. While the okapi has a noticeably smaller neck than a giraffe, their bodies are otherwise quite similar. They also both have small nubby horns at the top of their heads. The most noticeable common feature between giraffes and okapis are their flexible blue tongues that reach over a foot in length. Both creatures use this adaptation to acquire dinner – the tender leaves and buds from trees. The color is nature’s form of sunscreen – if you leave your tongue out all day, you certainly won’t want it to get sunburned.
Interestingly, the animals also share a common ancestor with deer and cows, meaning okapis really are nothing like zebras biologically speaking.
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