Sep 7, 2012

Your Weird Fact For The Day

So, I recently learned something that I've been telling everyone, since it's fascinating.

The modern dog's scientific classification is Canis lupus familiaris.  That means they are a subspecies of Canis lupus, which is--wait for it--the Gray Wolf.

So, as if it isn't weird enough that a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are the same species...

It turns out that they are all simply wolves that have been selectively bred.

But wait, there's more!

Asian and African elephants, on the other hand aren't even in the same genus.  That's right, two species that are, in most respects the exact same, save a few small differences, only share the same taxonomic family.  African elephants are under the genus Loxodonta (with two species, no less!).  The usual one you see in the savanna is Loxodonta africana.  The less known species is Loxodonta cyclotis--the Forest Elephant.

Loxodonta africana

Loxodonta cyclotis

Asian elephants, however, do not belong to the Loxodonta genus.  Instead, they are classified under the genus Elephas, and species Elephas maximus.

Equal rights for all elephant species were upheld in the landmark Supreme Court case, International Brotherhood of Loxodonta v. Elephas Maximus Society of Elephants

The differences seem so trivial.  Asian elephants have two humps on their heads, a smooth(er) trunk, smaller ears, a hump on their back, one 'finger' at the end of their trunks, five toes on their front feet and four on the back.  African elephants have one hump on their heads, a wrinkly trunk, larger ears, a concave back, two fingers on the trunk, four toes on their front feet, and three on the back.  In human terms, that's like one person having a cleft chin and missing a finger and toe on each hand and foot.  Apparently it's more than that, though.

Also, Asian elephants are more likely to submit to human authority.  African elephants are fiercely independent and difficult to control.

In fact, there has only been one hybrid elephant, born in the late 1970's in England.  His name was Motty, and he had an Asian mother and African father.  He only lived for two weeks (got an umbilical cord infection), and he had mixed traits--African ears and back, but Asian trunk and toes.

Motty and his mom

Alas, I can't find any examples of a wolf/chihuahua hybrid, though it is theoretically possible.

So, a chihuahua and a wolf are effectively the same animal, but an African and Asian elephant are not.  Biology is strange.

And here's a guy riding an elephant's face.  That seems risky.

No comments: