1, The wise old owl. Owls are believed to be wise for the same reason that humans who wear glasses are thought to be smart; big eyes are seen as markers of intelligence. Owls not only have big eyes, they are unusually big. They are so big that these birds can't move their eyes in their socket, they have to turn their whole head to look around. The myth of owls being wise dates back to Ancient Greece where an owl was the mascot of Athena, the goddess of wisdom. It turns out that owls aren't any smarter than any other bird and, in fact, both crows and ravens possess more intelligence. If big eyes was really an intelligence indicator, then every frog who ever lived would be a genius!
2. An elephant never forgets. Do elephants really have good memories? In this case, there is a bit of truth to the myth. Elephants do have comparatively bigger brains than do other mammals. They also possess advanced cognitive abilities. Elephants can 'remember' the faces of their fellow herd members and recognize individuals they have met, even briefly, years before. "The matriarchs of elephant herds have also been known to memorize the locations of watering holes, and there is anecdotal evidence of elephants "remembering" deceased companions by gently fondling their bones." Another elephant myth is that they're afraid of mice. It's not really mice, per se, that elephants are afraid of, it's any sudden movement. Elephants are simply spooked very easily.
3. Crocodile tears. Do crocodiles really shed tears? When humans are said to shed crocodile tears, it means that they're insincere about another's misfortune. If you watch any reality TV you've probably seen plenty of fake crocodile tears. This saying is believed to stem from a 14th-century description of crocodiles written by Sir John Mandeville. 'These serpents slay men, and they eat them weeping, and when they eat they move the over-jaw, and not the nether jaw, and they have no tongue.' But do crocodiles really "weep" insincerely when they devour their prey? Believe it or not, the answer to this question is yes. Crocodile, like other animals, secrete tears to keep their eyes lubricated; this is especially true when they're on land. 'It's also possible that the very act of eating stimulates a crocodile's tear ducts, thanks to the unique arrangement of its jaws and skull.'
4. The peace dove. Are doves really peaceful? When it comes to their behavior in the wild, doves "aren't any more or less peaceful than other seed-and-fruit eating bird." They are, however, easier to get along with than your average crow or vulture! So how did doves come to symbolize peace? It is believed it is because of their white color; the same color as the flag of surrender. It is also a color that isn't shared by many other birds. "Ironically, the closest relatives of doves are pigeons, which have been used in warfare since time immemorial."
5. Lazy as a sloth. We know that sloths are unbelievably slow. In fact, some species of microscopic algae grow on the coats of some sloth species, making them virtually indistinguishable from plants. But are they lazy, too? The short answer is no. In order to be called "lazy" one has to be capable of another behavior, i.e. industrious or energetic. Sloths weren't "smiled on by nature" when it comes to having different speeds. The metabolism of sloths is very slow and their internal body temperatures are low as well, ranging from 87 degrees to 93 degrees Fahrenheit. So, technically, sloths aren't lazy. They're just built that way.
I hope you enjoyed learning a little about these common animal myths. Please come back tomorrow for the September calendar of Special Days. Can you believe how fast this year is going? Until Friday, dear readers, I wish you all a day filled with