And some animals have very interesting similarities.
We’ve found the most commonly mixed-up animals out there to set the record straight. But even after seeing their photos side-by-side and learning about their differences, we wouldn’t be surprised if a few still stumped you out in the wild.
1. Alligators and crocodiles
Alligators have a broad, U-shaped snout while in crocodiles it’s narrow and V-shaped.
An alligator’s lower teeth are usually not visible when the mouth is shut, but in crocodiles, you can often see some teeth in the bottom jaw appear.
It will also depend on where you are as well – crocodiles are usually found in saltwater habitats, while alligators prefer freshwater.
2. Seals and sea lions
Seals, on the other hand, have small flippers and wriggle on their bellies. They have no ear flaps.
Usually, the best way you can tell is by how much noise they’re making. Sea lions “bark” noisily, while seals are soft grunters. Seals are also more solitary, so if you see and hear a big, noisy herd of flipper-footed animals waddling around, you’ve got sea lions on your hands.
3. Jaguars and leopards
Both jaguars and leopards both have coats that feature a rosette pattern, but a jaguar’s rosettes have spots inside them.
4. Donkeys and mules
A mule, on the other hand, is a hybrid animal – it’s the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey (or a “jack”).
— Ponder Weasel (@PonderWeasel) July 11, 2015
5. Moths and butterflies
For starters, the two creatures have different types of wings – butterflies’ fold vertically while moths’ fold like a tent. And while maybe you realize that butterflies tend to be larger and more colorful, did you know butterflies are most common during the day and moths at night?
How about that butterflies don’t create cocoons with silk coverings? That’s moths.
A butterfly makes a chrysalis, which is hard, smooth, and lacks a silk covering.
6. Hares and rabbits
In addition, rabbits tend to hang out in wooded places with lots of cover whereas hares prefer open spaces. Hares also have longer ears and limbs, are faster, and tend to feed on woody materials while rabbits eat leaves and shoots.
Rabbits are born blind and furless while hares are hopping about hours after birth with eyes wide open.
7. Ravens and crows
In fact, ravens are larger overall. Crows are the size of pigeons while ravens can be the size of smaller hawks (like the Red-Tailed variety).
8. Wasps and hornets
Hornets are also larger.
The two also differ in color – wasps have black and yellow rings, while some hornets have black and white rings.
9. Dolphins and porpoises
If you can ask them to open wide, you can also tell them apart by their dorsal fins. Dolphins have a curved, or hooked, fin, while porpoises have a triangular one.
Dolphins also tend to be leaner, while porpoises are portly.
10. Weasels and ferrets
Ferrets have longer bodies and shorter tails compared to weasels. Weasels also have brown or red-brown coats and white bellies, whereas ferrets have black-brown coats mixed with white.
Ferrets have been domesticated for 2,500 years. Weasels are wild pests.
11. Mice and rats
In addition, mice are curious (and bold!) whereas rats are not.
Both are nocturnal. And rats will eat mice!
12. Gulls and albatrosses
Gulls are medium to large-sized birds, are gray and/or white in color with black markings on their head and wings. They also have webbed feet, allowing them to dive and swim. They hang out in large, densely packed, noisy colonies and can live as long as 40 years!
Meanwhile, the albatross is a much larger bird with an enormous wingspan. They also have webbed feet for swimming, but their long bills and darker wings also set them apart.
13. Hawks and falcons
Perhaps the easiest way to tell them apart is by looking for a notch on their beaks. Only falcons have those while hawks have a curve.
If you see them hunting, you’ll notice that falcons grab their prey with their beaks while hawks use their talons.
14. Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes
Huskies and malamutes were bred as working dogs in cold climates, so both have thick coats. But malamutes tend to have longer hair. Many huskies have face markings that resemble white masks, while malamutes tend to have more subtle coloring.
Another obvious difference is their tails – the husky’s points downward, while the malamutes a bushier tail curls over their back.
The malamute is also much larger – between 20 and 24 inches tall – and can weigh nearly twice as much as huskies.
15. Wolves and coyotes
Coyotes have a narrow snout and small nose pad and large ears, whereas wolves have a broad snout and large nose pad, with relatively small ears.
While coyotes can weigh up to 50 pounds, wolves can weigh as much as 150!
16. Turtles and tortoises
Tortoises also have more rounded and domed shells while turtles have thinner shells, which are better adapted to life in the water.
Tortoises have more club-like legs as well, more suitable for traversing land than swimming.
17. Roosters and hens
A rooster is a male chicken and a female chicken is a hen.
Since they’re males, roosters do not lay eggs.
18. Llamas and alpacas
Alpacas have short spear-shaped ears while llamas have much longer, banana-shaped ears. Llamas also have longer faces while an alpaca’s looks more blunt.
19. Frogs and toads
Something you may not have knowns is that frogs have teeth while toads do not.
Frogs are also usually longer than toads (although there’s great variation among the different types of each creature) and have smooth, slimy skin. Toads have dry, bumpy skin as well as glands behind their eyes that can secrete toxins.
20. Lizards and salamanders
Salamanders are often mistaken for lizards because they have similar body shapes, but lizards have dry, scaly skin, while salamanders have moist, porous skin.
Lizards all breathe with lungs, but salamanders can breathe through their skin, gills, lungs, and even their skin.
Lizards also have leathery eggs that they usually bury in sand or dirt. Salamanders, on the other hand, mostly lay their eggs in water where the larvae hatch and then metamorphose before returning to land.
Salamanders must stay where they won’t dry out: under logs or leaves, underground, or directly in water, but lizards can get as far away from the water as they want.
21. Opossums and possums
Possums are marsupials native to Australia that are characterized by prehensile tails.
Many people use these words interchangeably, espeially with certain species.
22. Aardvarks and anteaters
They share similar facial features like elongated snouts and tongues, but the anteater’s tongue can extend up to 24 inches in order to get inside anthills and they can flick their tongues in and out of the hill as fast as 150 times per minute!
Aardvarks are hoofed animals, with claws on their forelimbs, while anteaters have paws with large claws and more fur on their bodies.
But the biggest difference is in their teeth. Aardvarks have teeth that continually grow to withstand the damage caused by eating so much grit and dirt. Anteaters simply have tooth-like protrusions on the roof of their mouths called papillae, which help grind up the ants.
23. Puffins and penguins
Puffins, on the other hand, can fly – up to 50 mph! They can swim as well and are smaller than penguins.
24. Chimps and bonobos
Chimpanzees have a slightly larger and stockier build than bonobos and their dark fur can even change color as they age. Socially, their groups are led by a dominant alpha male and are also known to be territorial and to use “tools” in their problem-solving.
Bonobos have a more slender build with smaller heads, dark faces, and pink lips. The biggest difference is in their social structure – bonobos are considered more “peaceful” and their species are led by females. Bonobos have rarely been observed using “tools.”
25. Shrimps and prawns
Prawns are larger in general – they have claws on three of their pairs of legs.
26. Asian elephants and African elephants
Meanwhile, the smaller Asian elephant has smaller, rounded ears, a twin-dome head, and weighs between 6k and 13k pounds.
27. Ants and termites
A termite has a rectangular body without any narrowing a the center – in other words, no “waist.” They also have straight antennae. Termites are harder to notice mostly because they avoid the light. Oh, and their wings are longer than their bodies but very delicate, so if you find loose wings on the floor near an opening, you probably have termites.
Meanwhile, ants are darker reddish-brown in color, have a narrow constriction at the center of their body, bent antennae, and no shame about foraging around for food out in the open.
28. Centipedes and millipedes
So for these pests, just keep in mind that centipedes are flexible and have one pair of legs per body segment, while millipedes have a cylindrical and more rigid body, with two pairs of legs per segment.
29. Ducks and geese
But the primary way scientists distinguish between them is based on how many bones they have in their necks – ducks have 16 or fewer bones in their necks, while geese and swans have between 17 and 24 neck bones. But it’s unlikely that you’re going to try and tell them apart that way.
Geese have elongated necks compared to more stout ducks as well as more webbings on the feet compared to ducks.
Goose feathers are gray, black, white, or spotted while ducks can be a variety of colors. And then there’s the honking that geese do. Ducks, of course, quack.
30. Echidnas and hedgehogs
Echidnas are egg-laying mammals that descended from an aquatic ancestor and still retain a platypus-like nose while hedgehogs have blunter faces.
31. Eels and sea snakes
A sea snake’s body is cylindrical (like other snakes), even though their heads may be flatter.
32. Emus and ostriches
While both are flightless birds with broad eyes and elongated necks that can run very fast, emus weigh about 80-90 pounds while ostriches push 200!
Emus are mostly omnivores, while ostriches tend to be herbivores (though they may eat insects).
Besides their size, another physical difference is that emus have three toes on their feet while ostriches have two toes plus a long tendon that allows them to run at speeds of up to nearly 45 mph (emus generally max out at 30 mph).
Emus tend to be more docile – but ostriches are not creatures you want to make mad.
33. Fleas and ticks
Ticks are generally larger than fleas (which are only about 1/8th of an inch long and appear as small dark specks on fur and clothing).
Ticks are also flat, teardrop-shaped, and dark in color.
34. Nutrias and beavers
But beavers have a broad, flat, and nearly hairless tail while nutrias have long, round, pointy, and hairy tails.
Beavers are also much larger than nutria – double the size, in fact!
Beavers make “lodges” from tree limbs and mud, while nutrias make floating “platforms” from aquatic plants.
35. Herons and storks
But storks tend to have much larger, thicker, and stouter bills that curve up or down near the tip. Herons tend to have smaller, dagger-shaped bills that taper near the tip.
The best way to tell them apart is when they’re flying. Storks fly with their necks fully extended, while herons retract their necks into a characteristic “S” shape while in flight.
36. Kangaroos and wallabies
Kangaroos also have legs designed for running fast with knees and ankles set wide apart. Wallabies are more agile and have compact legs.
Their coats differ as well – kangaroos are reddish-brown or gray while the wallaby has a glossier red, gray, fawn, brown, black, or white coat.
37. Squid and octopuses
But it’s harder to find an octopus, since they make dens on the seafloor, while squids live in the open ocean.
Both creatures have 8 arms with suckers on them, but squids also have two specialized tentacles that they use to reach out and capture prey.
38. Bison and buffalo
Bison have a large, muscular shoulder hump and a massive head with bodies tapering into slim hindquarters. But while bison horns of both sexes average around 2 feet, buffalo horns can be as wide as 6 feet!
In addition, bison have a thick, shaggy coat (and beards!) that they shed in the hot summer months while buffalo have thinner coats that don’t shed.
The American bison can grow up over 12 feet long and weigh up to 2000 pounds! But buffalo can be about 600 pounds heavier, even though they tend to only grow up to 9 feet long.
Buffaloes also have longer tails than bison.
39. Apes and monkeys
Apes also have arms longer than their legs, which they use to swing between branches – and they walk upright on two legs.
Monkeys walk on four feet and cannot swing from branch to branch with their arms.
40. Grasshoppers and crickets
While both “sing” (or stridulate), grasshopper do it by rubbing their long hind legs against their wings while crickets rub their wings together.