We all know that animals come in all shapes and sizes, but did you know that some of them have a very unusual common ancestor? That’s right, there are a number of animals out there whose ancestors were not what you would expect.
These are just a few examples of animals with an unusual common ancestor. As you can see, the list includes both well-known and lesser-known animals.
- Related: 5 Evidence of Evolution (Observable)
Elephant, Hyraxes, Sirenia
The elephant is the largest land animal on Earth, and its ancestors were even larger! The hyrax shares an ancestor with the elephant. The hyrax’s strong molars grind up tough vegetation, and two large incisor teeth grow out to be tiny tusks, just like an elephant’s.
The hyrax, also called the rock rabbit or dassie, is a small furry mammal. It looks like a robust, oversized guinea pig or a rabbit with rounded ears and no tail. Hyraxes have stumpy toes with hoof-like nails and four toes on each front foot and three on each back foot.
Sirenians, proboscideans (which includes elephants, mastodons, and woolly mammoths) and embrithopods (an extinct group of animals that looked a bit like rhinos, though they aren’t close relatives) are all thought to have descended from a common ancestor. Together, these groups belong to another group called Tethytheria.
The marmoset is a small monkey that is native to Central and South America. Although it may seem like an unlikely candidate, the marmoset is actually related to humans because they are also primates! Both are not closely related, rather far from closely related, but both have a common ancestor.
Rhinos are related, somewhat distantly, to a favourite domesticated animal and pet: the horse! Horses, or equids, tapirs, and rhinos are in the same group or ‘order’ and are known as’ Perissodactyls’.
The largest odd-toed ungulates are rhinoceroses, and the extinct Paraceratherium, a hornless rhino from the Oligocene, is considered one of the largest land mammals of all time. At the other extreme, an early member of the order, the prehistoric horse Eohippus, had a wither height of only 30 to 60 cm (12 to 24 in).
Apart from dwarf varieties of the domestic horse and donkey, perissodactyls reach a body length of 180–420 cm (71–165 in) and a weight of 150 to 4,500 kg (330 to 9,920 lb). While rhinos have only sparse hair and exhibit a thick epidermis, tapirs and horses have dense, short coats. Most species are grey or brown, although zebras and young tapirs are striped.
Jays, Crows, Nutcracker
You might not think that jays, crows, and nutcrackers have much in common by the looks of it – but you’d be wrong! These birds actually share a common ancestor with each other and a rather close ancestor! This means that these birds are more closely related to each other than they are to other birds such as sparrows or finches.
Cats, Hyaenas, Mongooses
Cats are some of the most popular pets in the world – but did you know that they are closely related to lions? That’s right – cats are actually members of the Felidae family, which also includes lions, tigers, leopards, etc.. In fact, all cats (including domestic cats) are descended from a single species known as Proailurus, which lived around 25 million years ago.
But have you ever known that cats, hyaenas, and mongooses are somewhat related? Although hyenas appear similar to dogs, they are actually more closely related to cats. They live throughout much of Africa and eastwards through Arabia to India.
So the mongoose, which shares ancient ancestors with cats, is actually most closely related to the civet and is in the same superfamily as the hyena and the leopard, but again they are related but not closely related.
Dogs are man’s best friend – but they actually have a lot in common with bears! In fact, dogs and bears share a common ancestor. Dogs and wolves exist within the Canidae family, while bears are classified within the Ursidae family. So, if you are comparing bears and dogs based on their sub-orders, they are closely related.