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Animals

These 5 Animal Facts (From a Zoologist) Reveal How Similar Humans and Wildlife Actually Are

We've got more in common with the animal kingdom than you think.

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Anyone whose been to a zoo knows the joy of observing majestic giraffes, playful elephants, and gorillas whose facial expressions are shockingly similar to our own. Watching them interact provides insight to their behavior and communication. It also reveals just how much we have in common with our animal friends.

Danielle Clode, PhD, zoologist, biologist, and author of Koala (Buy from Amazon, $27.95) is an animal expert who studies the link between humans and wildlife. Here, she shares several fascinating facts that illustrative our unique connection.

5 Fun Facts About the Similarities Between Animals and Humans

Nurturing your child or grandchild’s appreciation for wildlife helps to foster their empathy for other life forms and makes clear how alike man and human actually are. From cats to koalas, the connection between us and them is undeniable. Below are fun facts from Dr. Clode.

  1. Koalas and humans have similar fingerprints. Native to the eucalyptus forests of southeastern and eastern Australia, koalas have fingerprints that serve the same purpose as yours: grip strength and touch sensitivity. A good grip is essential to koalas, as they climb and dwell in trees; and touch sensitivity allows them to detect the finer details of objects. Human and koala fingerprints have such a close resemblance, in fact, that in 1975, UK police detectives couldn’t distinguish between the two when examining a case file of officers raiding a zoo.
  2. Cockatoos have the ability to boldly communicate, just like you. Saying cockatoos are chatterboxes is an understatement. These birds belong to the parrot family and are widely regarded as the loudest parrot species. The sounds you can expect from a cockatoo include whistling, singing, talking, and calling out to find their friends or mates. Cockatoos are also known for mimicking the sounds from their surrounding environment; so, just be mindful of the conversation you have around these birds — they’re bound to repeat whatever they hear!
  3. Octopus flex their superb human-like problem-solving skills. When it comes to navigating their way out of a maze or giant cage, octopuses find impressively clever ways to escape what they perceive as danger. Humans have an equivalent “fight-or-flight” response in tricky situations, thanks to our sympathetic nervous system, which regulates blood pressure and heart rate. For an octopus, decision-making is driven by multiple parts of their body. More than half of their 500 million neurons are located outside of their main brain, and some of the remaining nerve cells are actually attached to the animal’s eight arms — acting as “miniature brains” that control movement. Neurons are even located on their suckers to help them feel and understand the world around them. There are many anecdotes about octopuses’ abilities and mischievous behavior out there — so, if you meet one, show some respect!
  4. Dogs and cats use facial expressions the same way you do. Your facial expressions convey your mood, whether you’re aware of it or not. Dogs and cats also possess the ability to use non-verbal communication to tell you how they’re feeling. In fact, a 2019 study suggested that dogs’ facial muscles evolved in order to non-verbally convey their feelings to humans, after becoming our domestic pets. While cats and dogs each have their own ways of expressing themselves, they typically convey relaxation through soft eye contact and having their ears up and facing forward.
  5. Finger monkeys enjoy human contact. Physical touch is important for humans because it helps form bonds and lowers stress levels. Similarly, finger monkeys (also called pygmy marmosets) seem to crave human touch — and luckily, their compact nature allows their owners to hold and embrace them frequently. Since they’re the world’s smallest monkey species, they easily fit into a human hand (these animals grow to become 5 to 6 inches in length with a tail that can reach up to 8 inches in height). They’re considered to be exotic pets, and therefore state laws on owning one may vary; but if you can’t get ahold of one yourself, YouTube is full of adorable videos showing the special bond between humans and the miniature creatures.

Animal Appreciation

Clearly, the human bond with animals goes beyond companionship. For Dr. Clode, recognizing our similarities is essential to fostering a deeper appreciation for wildlife. She points out that humans are themselves primates who, like other primates, have their own unique behavioral patterns. “We’re very busy and noisy, and most animals don’t like that,” she says. “We have to be slow and sit back, especially if we want to see animals in the wild.”

Her best advice is, put simply, “Be quiet and watch.” 

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