Quiz: Can you guess all these misleading animal names?
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Can you guess all these misleading animal names?
By: Maria Trimarchi
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Are you an animal aficionado? Do you think you know all there is to know about the animal world? If so, then this is the quiz for you. We're pretty sure, though, that you might find this one more difficult than you think. Let's get started to find out how much you really know about animal names.

Now, by animal names, we're not talking about dogs named "Fido," elephants named "Dumbo," or bears named "Paddington." We're actually talking about the common names that we give to species in the animal kingdom that can be somewhat misleading. For instance, is a prairie dog really a dog? Is a starfish really a fish? And what the heck is a bearcat? Cat or bear?

So, the reality is that we often give names to things that don't actually reflect what the creature really is. This can happen because it is simply easy, because the name we give to a critter might reflect our limited understanding of the species at the time of discovery, or because the animal looks like another creature that we're more familiar with.

So, to answer the above questions, a prairie dog is not really a dog, a starfish is not really a fish, and a bearcat is neither a bear nor a cat.

Take this quiz to find out how much you know about misleading animal names.

1 of 35
What color is a white rhinoceros?

The white rhino comes in two colors: light grey or mud-colored from the day's wallowing.

2 of 35
While it's true they do prefer to live on prairies, are prairie dogs real dogs?

Prairie dogs aren't canines, but rather they're Cynomys -- ground squirrels.

3 of 35
The name starfish is a little misleading. Are they fish?

Starfish, also known as the sea star, aren't fish (or stars). They're echinoderms, just like sea lilies and sand dollars.

4 of 35
Bearcat: Bear or cat?

A bearcat is actually a member of the civet family, which means they're more closely related to mongoose and meerkats than to bears or cats.

5 of 35
What kind of animal are koala?

Despite being well-known as a koala bear, koala aren't bears. They're marsupials, just like the kangaroo.

6 of 35
The slow worm isn't a worm, but rather a limbless what?

The Anguis fagilis, the slow worm, is actually a limbless lizard.

They are, but they're actually bats.

8 of 35
Which of these is a sea cucumber related to?

Sea cucumbers aren't related to the gourds their name suggests. Rather, this marine animal is related to sea urchins and starfish, all of whom are echinoderms.

9 of 35
If electric eels aren't eels, what are they?

The electric eel is really an electric fish called a knifefish, which is more like a catfish than a true eel.

10 of 35
The thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian wolf or the Tasmanian tiger, was the largest carnivorous what, until it went extinct during the 20th century?

The thylacine was neither a wolf nor a tiger. It was a marsupial.

11 of 35
If the killer whale isn't a whale, nor a fish as its "blackfish" nickname would suggest, what kind of animal is it?

Killer whales (Orcinus orca) have teeth, which makes them the world's largest dolphin.

12 of 35
What type of wildfowl is the African pygmy goose?

The African pygmy goose is not a goose, but it is in the same family. It's actually a type of perching duck native to sub-Sarahan Africa and Madagascar.

13 of 35
What kind of insect is a firefly?

There are about 2,000 types of fireflies, and none of them are actually flies. Fireflies are really flying beetles and members of the family Lampyridae.

14 of 35
Which cephalopod doesn't want to suck your blood, nor is it really a squid?

The vampire squid, with its big eyes and jellyfish-like body is a cephalopod with a name that means "vampire squid from hell" (Vampyroteuthis infernalis). But this faux-squid is the only member of the order Vampyromorphida, meaning it's not a true squid (which are members of the order Teuthida).

15 of 35
The "horny toad" or "horned toad" isn't actually what?

The horny toad has a bit of a toad-ish look about it, but it's actually a lizard. And, fun fact about the short-horned lizards: when its spiky back can't fend off a foe, some types shoot blood from their eyes in defense.

16 of 35
Mudpuppies aren't puppies. In fact, they're not even mammals.What type of species is this underwater dweller?

Mudpuppies, also known as waterdogs, are the largest of the salamanders, and one of the only types known to make noise.

17 of 35
Males and females are both covered in velvety down hairs, but "velvet ants" are actually what type of insect?

Velvet ants are actually wasps.

18 of 35
This crustacean throws what some scientists call the strongest punch in the animal kingdom, at speeds of up to 51 mph. But behind its war hammer, the mantis shrimp is keeping what secret?

A mantis shrimp is only distantly related to crabs, lobsters and shrimp. It's actually a stomatopod.

Dragonflies are neither dragons nor flies. They're carnivorous insects.

20 of 35
Jellyfish aren't, under the rules of biology, actually fish. What are they?

Because they are invertebrates, jellyfish don't qualify for fishhood. Jellies, as many prefer to call them, are medusozoa.

21 of 35
Which cobra is an imposter?

Snakes in the Naja genus are the "true cobras," which doesn't include the false water cobra. While FWCs are able to flatten their neck and body like a cobra hood, they're actually Hydrodynastes gigas.

22 of 35
Where does the Guinea pig come from?

Not only did the Guinea pig (Cavia porcellus) not come from Guinea, it's not related to a pig. It is, however, a rodent from the Andes.

23 of 35
Are glowworms more closely related to worms or to fireflies?

A glowworm is the name for certain beetle or gnat insect larvae that glows through bioluminescence. Fireflies are members of the insect famliy Lampyridae; glowworms are part of the Lampyridae family, but they're both insects (whereas a worm is not).

24 of 35
Which are fisher cats most closely related to?

Fisher cats aren't, themselves, felines, although they're known to prey on cats (not fish). Fishers are actually closely related to weasels and are part of the marten genus.

25 of 35
Why is the giant ditch frog called the "mountain chicken"?

The giant ditch frog (Leptodactylus fallax) is more commonly known as the mountain chicken because it tastes like chicken. (Doesn't everything, though?)

26 of 35
Which of these terrible swimmers is a fish?

Seahorses live in the water but are known to be terrible swimmers.%0DIt's said they got their equine-inspired name because of their shape.

27 of 35
The closest to being a "wolf" is in name only for which of these wolves?

Even though the maned wolf is a canid, which means it's a relative of the wolf, it's actually in the same famliy as foxes and bush dogs.

28 of 35
They're not true lemurs, nor can they fly. What, then, is a flying lemur?

Scientists don't really call them "flying lemurs" anymore, preferring the more-appropriate name, colugo. Colugos glide, rather than fly, from tree to tree.

29 of 35
The king cobra isn't actually a member of the Naja genus, as all true cobras are. It has its own genus, called what?

The king cobra is part of the genus called, Ophiophagus, which is Greek for “snake eating" (and they live up to that description).

30 of 35
These nimble animals are known for their amazing sure-footedness and climbing abilities. But are mountain goats really goats?

Mountain goats are actually goat-antelope: not a goat, nor an antelope, but a caprine (which also includes sheep and ibex).

31 of 35
Which part of the honey badger name got it wrong?

Honey badgers love honey, but they are actually a badger-like mammal called a ratel.

32 of 35
What type of saltwater mollusk is the naval shipworm?

Naval shipworms aren't worms nor are they in the military. They're actually saltwater clams.

33 of 35
What is the Bombay duck, if not a duck?

The Bombay duck isn't a bird. It's a lizardfish.

34 of 35
What is the common nighthawk if not a hawk?

Not only is this bird not a hawk (it's a member of the "goatsucker" or "nightjar" Caprimulgidae family), it's also not nocturnal (it prefers dawn and dusk, which means it's crepuscular).

These small (not giant) mammals are more closely related to elephants than shrews.

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