12 Myths You Learned in Biology Class That You Probably Still Believe
American writer Mark Twain once said, “Never let school interfere with your education.” Sometimes, science develops faster than the school program. Moreover, it is easier for teachers to provide a simplified explanation of some facts than to give a full narrative. For these reasons, some things that you learned in school or accept as a common truth are actually wrong.
We at Bright Side collected some common misconceptions and were surprised to find out that some things we believed to be correct have actually been debunked long ago. Read this list up until the very end to ensure that you’ll never make such factual errors again!
1. Humans evolved from chimps.
The idea that humans came from apes is a common misconception about evolution, which is profoundly wrong. Darwin never claimed that we evolved from modern apes. Instead, he argued that due to the great similarities we have with monkeys and apes, we must all have a common ancestor that lived millions of years ago.
2. Humans are at the top of the food chain.
A group of French researchers managed to precisely calculate where humans rank in the prototypical food web. Based on the eating behavior of humans, they don’t rank higher than anchovies or pigs. To be at the top, an animal should only consume the meat of other predators, which is definitely not the case for humans, who consume a mixture of plants and meat.
3. Cats and dogs are color-blind.
There is a persistent myth that cats and dogs can only see black and white. The myth appeared after an experiment in 1915, which failed to teach cats to distinguish between colored and gray paper. Later experiments showed that cats are able to see colors but fail to see red, or see it less strongly than humans. In the same line, dogs are only partially color-blind and fail to distinguish red and orange but don’t have problems with other colors.
4. There are only 5 senses.
The principle of 5 basic senses is traced back to Aristotle. However, despite its noble origin, this is only a myth. If sense is a way of the brain to obtain information about the world, more than 5 can be named. Hunger, thirst, and pain are often named as senses as they give us information about our body’s state. Additionally, we are in possession of temperature-sensitive and mechanical pressure receptors. This list can be continued depending on the definition of the sense we are using.
5. Tongue taste maps
Do you remember dividing a scheme of the tongue into 4 areas: sweet, sour, salty, and bitter with an assumption that the taste buds located in these areas identify specific tastes? You should forget about this myth forever! Actually, there are 5 scientifically-identified basic tastes, and the entire tongue can sense them. The idea of the tongue taste map dates back to 1901 and has been proven wrong multiple times since then.
6. Sugar causes hyperactivity.
Many parents believe that there is a link between the hyperactivity of their children and their diet, but in reality, the majority of studies failed to find a connection between sugar consumption and behavior. Moreover, several studies showed that when parents did not see whether the child was given sugar or not, all perceived effects of sugar on behavior disappeared.
7. Lemmings commit mass suicide.
One of the most popular rumors about lemmings is that they commit mass suicide by jumping off of cliffs. In fact, this rumor was distributed by the 1958 Disney nature film White Wilderness, where they staged mass jumping of lemmings off a cliff by deliberately pushing them. It can happen that lemmings jump off cliffs or swim great distances, but all that is nothing more than their normal migration behavior when they migrate in large numbers to find a new place to live.
8. Ostriches hide by putting their heads in the sand.
Ostriches hiding their heads in the sand when being afraid is a popular myth. In fact, when ostriches feel danger, they try to run away from it. If they can’t run away, they fall to the ground and remain still. They only put their heads in the sand when they swallow pebbles and sand to help digestion or when they dig holes during nesting and turn their eggs.
9. Goldfish can’t remember anything for longer than a second.
Somebody who has a bad memory is often compared to a goldfish, who is believed to store information for 3 seconds only. But is it really true? Several experiments showed that fish trained to respond to certain sounds were able to react to them months after training. Apparently, goldfish can remember things for up to 3 months and can even tell the time.
10. Humans can’t grow new brain cells.
It is a common misconception that when brain cells die, no new cells appear. Multiple studies demonstrated that our brains keep on producing new cells even later in life. The process is called neurogenesis.
11. Deoxygenated blood is blue.
A misconception about blue deoxygenated blood is surprisingly pervasive, although human blood is always red due to a large number of red blood cells. It is true that our veins look blue, but it only happens due to the way the wavelengths of light are reflected from your skin: the red light is absorbed and the blue light is reflected.
12. Camels store water in their humps.
It is true that camels can survive several days without water, but not due to water reserves they have in their humps, as people commonly think. The hump is used to store fatty tissue, not water. This tissue provides camels with several days worth of energy, as food is scarce in the desert. What is exceptionally good at retaining water in a camel’s body are its kidneys and intestines.
Were you surprised by any of the myths mentioned in this article? Do you know of some other misconceptions that should be added to this list? Share your impressions, opinions, and facts in the comments with us!