Do You Know Which Animal Species Names Are Real and Which Ones We Made Up?


By: Zoe Samuel

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

The Earth is home to approximately nine million distinct species of animal life that we know of, and new species are discovered all the time. The world's rain forests are home to animals that would seem quite alien to outsiders, and the ocean depths reveal new and fascinating species every year. Even how we see animals has changed. Once upon a time, the giraffe was called the "camel leopard" because it was a bit like a camel and a bit like a leopard, not because it was related to either. Just as our perceptions change, so too does how we classify and name animals.

Are you very interested in animals? Do you grieve the loss of a species, and celebrate the recovery of species on the brink of extinction? Do you consider a trip to the zoo a great day out? Do you go to natural history museums and wonder what it must have been like for early conservationists as they mapped the hinterlands of the world, discovering new and fascinating life? Do you worry that in humanity's industrial ambition, we are making it harder for our animal cousins to thrive as they once did? Well, it's time to put this to the test. See if you can identify which animals listed here are real and which ones we just made up. Take the quiz!

Which deer is not dear?

Deer exist in so many species it's hard to keep track, but we can say for sure there are no deer on the moon!


Which caracara is not real?

While the white-throated caracara can be found in the barrens of the Andes, there is no yellow-throated caracara.


Which anteater is not real?

While northern and southern tamandua species exist in Central and South America, respectively, there is no eastern tamandua.


Which howler monkey should make you cry foul?

While the red-handed howler can be found in the rain forests of Brazil, there is in fact no red-fisted howler, though of course, a red-handed howler should be able to make a fist if they want.


Which caiman would you leave on the island?

The broad-snouted caiman can be found in the sweet water marshlands of South America, but interestingly, there is no narrow-snouted caiman to compare it to.


Which capybara isn't the real McCoy?

Capybara are the largest extant rodent. They can be found all over the world, but not particularly in New Hampshire.


Which of these dogs is just not real?

The feathered, serpent deity Quetzalcoatl was an important figure in Aztec mythology, but in the end, he was a god, not a dog.


Which jaguar isn't a cat at all?

While jaguars make their homes in many climates, they do not do this in the arctic. Melanistic jaguars are jaguars with a gene that causes a color variation, but they are not actually a distinct species, as believed by various indigenous peoples. Melanistic jaguars are commonly considered black panthers, but the gene that gives them their coloration exists in many types of big cats and has been passed into lion-jaguar hybrids.


Which parrot is just a pale imitation?

The tiger parrot are a species of parrot with several subspecies, native to New Guinea. Parrot tigers, on the other hand, are just made up to sound a bit like them.


Which New World vulture isn't good enough to pick at a carcass?

The vulture is one of the most adaptable species of bird, able to live in many climates, and capable of eating anywhere. One place they aren't known for doing that is Chicago, as there isn't enough big game to sustain them.


Which of these Labradors isn't real?

While red Labradors are a variation on yellow Labradors, and silver Labradors are a variation on the chocolate variety, there are no blue Labradors.


Which shark doesn't belong, any week?

Sharks are one of the most adaptable creatures on Earth, and come in hundreds of species, from the tiny dwarf and pygmy varieties, to the massive whale shark. Some are even named for their strange qualities, like the hammerhead shark. There is no chainsaw shark though.


Which whale is just a tall tale?

Bryde's whale is named for a Norwegian who established a whaling station in South Africa, and is a catch-all for several similar subspecies of whale.


Which dolphin is a fish story?

No, the Irrawotty dolphin isn't a real thing, but the Irrawaddy dolphin is a real species, found in parts of southeast Asia. They are shy, and prefer to dive rather than confront or explore surface disturbances, but they are cute and weird and occasionally like to come up to wave a fin.


Which rat is too gross to be real?

The Finland rat is fictitious, but the Norway rat, also called a brown rat, is one of the most adaptable species in the world. It has spread on ships, carries diseases, and can fit its whole body through a hole big enough for its head, which it can make with its teeth.


Which falcon doesn't fly?

The urban falcon may be a story people tell, particularly in places like New York where birders visit nests to see the falcons snatch up rats from the street, but there is no "Urban Falcon" species.


Which bear did we make up?

There are many kinds of bears, and some interesting hybrids, but none are yellow.


Which domestic cat is made up?

No, just because your cat walks on your keyboard does not mean they can use a computer. There are no computer cats.


Which horse isn't even worth a quarter?

Manhattan was once home to many horses, and indeed its sanitation department was formed, largely, to clean up streets full of horse refuse and discarded horses, but there are no distinct mustangs from Manhattan.


Which lion is just us, lyin'?

The Scottish Lion is real in that we didn't totally make it up, but it's just an image from heraldry, not a species of animal.


Which deep sea fish did we just make up?

Many deep sea creatures produce light, but the Luminescent Sand Shark is just an idea of ours.


Which eel are we just wiggling into this quiz?

Octaphangidipithingiedae is just a made up word. It sure sound "reel" though, doesn't it?


Which clam is a sham?

"Black Cherry Clams" may sound delicious, but we promise they do not exist.


Which lobster is made up?

No, there are no New Jersey three-eyed lobsters, but if there were lobsters living in the chemical detritus in the Garden State, they might have three eyes.


Which crab is fiction?

While ghost crabs are common in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, zombie crabs still haven't proven that there is life after crab death.


Which roach don't you need to worry about squashing?

While giant burrowing cockroaches are giant, horrifying cockroaches from Australia, the giant building variety are just something we came up with on our own.


Which raven never was?

The little raven is a species in southeastern Australia, but no, there is no "big" raven.


Which lynx is the missing lynx?

The lynx is a beautiful creature seen in many cold environments, but not the deserts or mountains of Mexico.


Which tiger is a stripe we came up with?

Hungary is known for its cafes, its landscape, its hot springs and its history, but not its tigers. Sorry, tourists.


Which bat was made up by man?

Megabats, also called fruit bats, or old world fruit bats, are very real. ultrabats may only exist as the name of someone's improv team, if anything.


Which kind of squirrel doesn't fly?

The Skylark Flying Squirrel is made up, but there are in fact many kinds of flying squirrel, so don't worry, you will believe a squirrel can fly.


Which of these game birds is not "over"?

Pheasant is a common game bird, with beautiful feathers and slightly dull wits. No one in modern times hunts peasants, as they are not game birds, or birds at all for that matter!


Which songbird isn't singing the right tune?

While the grey catbird can be found in North and Central America, it has no "black" cousin. We just made that one up.


Which pet fish will never be your pet?

Plecostomus is a real kind of fish from South and Central America. They are bottom feeders, and they make good household pets. Plasticostomus on the other hand, is made up.


Which of these tiny mammals is one we made up?

While all these animals are tiny, adorable mammals, the spiderbaby is just one we made up. We like to think of it as an eight-legged puppy.


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