Nature is quite an exciting concept, especially when you think about how it produces creatures that look very similar and yet are entirely different from one another. More often than not, we tend to confuse these creatures for their look-a-likes. Ever look at a llama and think it was an alpaca? There you go.
How about that seal swimming next to your boat? Or, wait, is it a sea lion? There are such tiny differences between some animals that it can get difficult to tell them apart. Get ready; these pairs of animals are sure to have you confused. Don’t worry, though; we’ll explain their differences!
Dolphin vs. Porpoise
When they’re swimming in the water, it can be kind of challenging to tell if a dolphin or porpoise is next to your boat. Both have long sleek bodies, flippers, dorsal fins, and wide tails. So, what is the best way to tell these two sea creatures apart from one another?
To start, dolphins have long “beaks” with cone-shaped teeth; they’re also quite chatty. Porpoises, on the other hand, have smaller mouths with spade-shaped teeth. Pretty much, scrunch in a dolphins beak, and you have a porpoise!
Alligator vs. Crocodile
Two common mix-ups in the animal kingdom are between the alligator and crocodile. And while the two reptiles look strangely similar, there are distinct differences that will help you tell them apart from one another. It mostly comes down to both of the snouts.
While an alligator’s snout is wide with a U-shape to it, a crocodile is a more pronounced V-shape, making it look a bit more pointed. Also, crocodiles’ upper and lowers jaws are the same size, giving them a perpetual toothy grin. On the other side of the coin, an alligator’s top jaw is slightly wider, covering all those teeth.
Seal vs. Sea Lion
If you’re not familiar with sea creatures, we can understand why telling a seal and sea lion apart could get a bit tricky. With their oval bodies and cute faces, it’s hard to tell the two mammals from one another. Thankfully, there are a few key characteristics to look out for.
Firstly, while on land, seals move around on their bellies, as their tiny flippers are too small to use as “feet.” On the other side of the flipper, sea lions are quite large, and they’re able to use theirs to “walk” on land. Also, sea lions have cute little ear flaps, so there’s that.
Hare vs. Rabbit
While hares are classified in the same family as rabbits, they aren’t exactly the same animal. Even if they might look very similar and have long ears, both of these mammals tend to give people a bit of confusion, especially when all they see are flashes of fur jumping into the bushes.
While both the hare and rabbit have pretty large feet and ears, hares have longer hind legs and larger ears that are marked with black fur. And while rabbits’ fur stays the same color all year round, hares’ fur color changes from grey or brown in the spring and summer to white in the winter.
Donkey vs. Mule
Donkeys and mules are from the same family, making them a bit difficult to tell apart, especially when they’re young. But while they might have similar coats and features, there are huge differences when it comes to these two mammals, including height and the shape of their snouts.
Since mules are a hybrid of a donkey and horse, they tend to grow a bit taller than donkeys, while keeping the endearing long ears, of course! Also, mules typically follow after their horse family’s side, keeping a longer snout while donkeys are more stout. Also, donkeys have a distinct dorsal stripe running the length of their spine, while mules do not.
Eagle vs. Hawk
While they are in flight, eagles and hawks look nearly identical. They’re both large birds of prey, have darkly colored feathers, huge talons, and have legs that are partially covered by feathers. Because of these similarities, these two birds regularly get mixed up.
But not if you know what to look for! While both birds have dark feathers, eagles’ plumage tends to skew towards blackish-gray, brown, and golden with a yellow beak. On the other hand, hawks are reddish-brown and grey with white feathers on their bellies and a darkly colored beak.
Wolf vs. Coyote
Not that wolves and coyotes make a habit of showing themselves to humans, but when they do, they can easily be confused for one another. They both resemble large dogs, so we understand where the mix-up comes from. But if you look very closely, the two woodland creatures have some distinct differences.
Wolves are much larger than coyotes, growing to be around 120 pounds to coyotes’ 50-pound average. They also sport rounded ears and a shorter, broader snout, while a coyote has taller, pointed ears, and a long pointed snout. But keep in mind, they both run super fast!
Turtle vs. Tortoise
Two reptiles who always seem to be going through an identity crisis because people can’t tell them apart are the turtle and the tortoise. Yes, they both have large shells and stubby legs, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same creature. In fact, there is a huge difference that sets these two reptiles apart.
Turtles will always live near water, spending at least a portion of their time in it, meaning their shell is a bit flatter, lighter, and more streamlined. Then, there’s the tortoise who prefers to spend his time on land, making their shell a bit heavier and more domed at the top.
Moth vs. Butterfly
Two flying insects a lot of people have trouble identifying are moths and butterflies. And while some people associate moths with being “the ugly butterfly,” that’s not necessarily true. For all they know, they could be talking about a butterfly! But let’s start with how to differentiate between the two.
For starters, moths tend to have darker color palates as they are nocturnal, and it’s better for camouflage. Butterflies are known to be more vibrant, using their colors to blend in with flowers during the days. If that doesn’t help, try looking at their bodies. Moths are stout and fuzzy, while butterflies are longer and sleek.
Raven vs. Crow
Unless you’re an avid bird watcher or Edgar Allan Poe, these two blackbirds tend to give people a bit of confusion. They look nearly identical. But, if you know what to look for, you’re able to tell that the two pictures shown above are not of the same bird.
First off, ravens tend to travel in pairs while crows prefer to travel in larger flocks. And then there are the tail feathers. The next time you see what’s either a crow or raven flying overhead, check out its tail. If it’s fanned, it’s a crow, and if it’s more of a triangular wedge shape, it’s a raven.
Hornets vs. Wasps
Unlike their fuzzy bee counterparts, hornets and wasps look oddly similar to one another, with their “bald bodies.” While the two insects do look very much alike with their size, thin bodies, and coloring, not everything is as it seems. In fact, neither of those characteristics are the same on either the hornet or wasp. It’s just difficult to see with the human eye.
Hornets are slightly larger than wasps, sporting black and white markings. And then there are the somewhat smaller wasps. Instead of black and white, the body of a wasp has yellow and black rings. We always mix these two up!
Wolverine vs. Honey Badger
These two furry creatures might look alike, but they are very different. Wolverines kind of look like tiny bears, with solid builds, sharp claws, and very strong jaws. They are also much heavier than honey badgers, weighing around 46 pounds maximum. Honey badgers, on the other hand, are a bit less intimidating.
These cute animals are a bit flatter, fluffier, and tinier than wolverines, weighing around 26 pounds maximum. They also have tiny round ears on the side of their head, while wolverines’ ears are on the top and white fur covers their heads with black stripes that look a bit like sideburns.
Jaguar vs. Leopards
In the wild kingdom of the jungle, two big spotted cats often get confused for one another: the jaguar and the leopard. And while the coats of the two animals have them looking very similar, there are distinct differences to be found, such as their preferred habitats and their body build.
While the jaguar inhabits the tropical forests of South America, leopards prefer the African climate of the savannas. The two large cats’ behavior also differs, with jaguars loving to spend time splashing around in the water while leopards will avoid it.
Weasel vs. Stout
While weasels and stouts look oddly familiar to one another, there is one distinct and very reliable difference to be seen between the two forest critters. But first, lets’s discuss why people often confuse these creatures. Most likely, it’is due to their long bodies and short legs. But get ready never to mix these two animals up again!
Experts say that one of the most reliable ways to tell the difference between a weasel and stout is the tail. While weasels have a solid color, stouts will always have a black tip on the end of theirs! Their tail is also about half the size of its body.
Mouse vs. Rat
Unless you’re someone who works with mice or rats daily, we’re going to take a wild guess and say you probably mix the two rodents up quite often. But have no fear; you’re not the only one! They do look very similar, after all.
Let’s start with the basics. Overall, mice are tinier, growing to a maximum of four inches, have smaller feet, large ears, and a long thin tail covered in fur. Then we have rats. They are a bit larger, growing to a maximum of almost 16 inches, have smaller ears, and a long, thick, hairless tail.
Anteaters vs. Aardvarks
We know, most people don’t exactly see anteaters or aardvarks out in the wild, and will most likely only ever see them in a zoo of some kind. But that doesn’t mean people don’t mix up these funny-looking animals from time to time!
The biggest difference to look out for is the size of the nose. While anteaters have elongated snouts, aardvarks’ are a bit shorter and almost resemble that of a pig. Also, do you see those adorably large aardvark ears? Notice how the anteater doesn’t sport any. Pretty much, if you’re unsure what animal you’re looking at, look for the ears and snout length.
Seagull vs. Albatross
Two seabirds that often get confused for one another are the seagull and albatross. While both birds are found either over the water or at least near it, there are some distinct differences to look out for if you’re trying to tell them apart on your next beach vacation.
First, keep in mind that albatross spend most of their life at sea, only coming to land during the breeding season. Seagulls will be found on the beach, near restaurants, and even in parking lots. Albatrosses are also much larger than seagulls, reaching up to 51 inches in length compared to a seagull’s 30 inches.
Llamas vs. Alpacas
Two animals that are often confused for one another are the llama and alpaca. While both enjoy cold mountainous areas and have nice thick coats, there are some differences to look out for so you don’t mistake one for the other. Because, seriously, who likes being mistaken for their weird family member? (Not to say either of them is weird!)
Let’s start with llamas. Unlike alpacas, they have banana-shaped ears and long faces. They’re also much larger, weighing up to 400 pounds. Alpacas, on the other hand, have shorter straighter ears and smushed in faces.
Frogs vs. Toads
Two forest dwellers a lot of people tend to confuse are frogs and toads. And while we understand the fact that they’re both kind of weird-looking, they’re actually quite different in a few different ways. For starters, frogs are mostly aquatic, only making their way to land occasionally.
Toads differ because they’re land dwellers, preferring cool soil and mud to water. And while a lot of people think both amphibians are slimy, only frogs have the “mucus” on their bodies. Toads are quite bumpy and dry. And some of you might be happy to hear that, according to the San Diego Zoo, getting warts from a toad is a myth.
Lizard vs. Salamander
If you’re walking along and see something scurry across the ground, you might be confused as to whether it was a lizard or a salamander. They do look awfully similar at first glance, after all. But there are some distinct differences between the two.
While they both might look slimy, only salamanders possess the slippery skin, while lizards are dry. Also, salamanders don’t have scales, only their smooth skin, unlike lizards which are covered in scales, much like snakes.