Animals Where You'd Be Surprised to Learn How Much They Are Related

Nowadays animals (and any living creatures in general) aren't classified based on morphological simmilarities, just genetic relation. In some cases, these relations aren't the same as we might believe. Each of us know some closer relations like mammooth-elephant, but can you guess who are the closest living relatives of elephants? You might guess rhinoceros or hippos but the actual closest relative doesn't resemble elephants at all.

You might wonder how close the relation should be between animals in an item. You could say, "of course elephants and hyraxes are related, they are both mammals. That's right, but not surprising. This is a subjective list, if you add items, you have to judge if a relation is close enough to be surprising.

The Top Ten

Crocodiles and Birds

While for the first time it may be a surprise that birds' closest living relatives are crocodiles, it isn't astounding if you think beyond. Most of us know birds are related to reptiles, but it's a less known fact that crocodiles are less related to turtles (a.k.a. some other reptiles) than to birds.

Elephants and Hyraxes

Hyraxes are the closest living relatives of the three elephant species. There is even an African language in which hyraxes are called the small brothers of elephants. Hyraxes have no very close relatives so they make up an individual order called Hyracoidea. If you haven't heard of them: check them out, they don't resemble elephants in any way.

Primates and Treeshrews

This is actually a pretty well-known fact, but it still surprises most people. Treeshrews have the largest brains in proportion with the rest of their body. While the resemblance is minimal, I actually find treeshrews' ears somewhat similar to human ears. The order of animal groups from the most related to humans:
1. chimpanzees
2. gorillas
3. orangutans
4. gibbons
5. Cercopithecidae (I.e. swamp monkey, talapoin, macaque, vervet)
6. New World monkeys
7. tarsius
8. every other primate
9. flying lemurs
10. treeshrews
All these animals together make up the clade Euarchonta

Cats and Dogs
Flies and Fleas

Not the most surprising on the list, but I would think that flies's (which includes mosquitos) closest relatives are bees or wasps. Flies and mosquitos make up the order Diptera, while they make a bigger clade with fleas (which is a separate order as well). Their next closest relatives (excluding some obscure groups) are butterflies.

Sharks, Rajas and Rabbit Fish

Sharks and rajas are the two types of cartilaginous fish commonly known, rabbit fish (not to be confused with rabbitfish) are the lesser known and they look nothing like sharks and rajas

Hedgehog Tenrecs and Golden Moles

This is more like "animals you'd be surprised are NOT related". Hedgehog tenrecs look exactly like hedgehocs for the first glimpse, than you realise their heads don't resemble hedgehogs at all. Together with golden moles (who aren't closely related to moles), hedgehog tenrecs (not closely related to hedgehogs) belong in the order Afrosoricida. Real hedgehogs's relatives are shrews (who aren't relatives of treeshrews and elephant shrews).

Hyenas and Cats

Believe it or not, hyenas are closer relatives of cats than dogs, they both belong in the suborder Feliformia while dogs are in Caniformia, together with bears, weasels and seals.

It's fairly obvious, so yeah.

You mean you really thought they were closer relatives to cats than dogs? In Hungarian they are often called "dogs of Satan"

Elephant Shrews and Elephants

When you see an elephant shrew you would think there's more shrew in it than elephant, while it is the opposite case. I put it low because the relation isn't very close: they only belong to the same superorder of placentals but different orders.

This is actually a true fact. No joke. - IceFoxPlayz

Carnivoran and Pangolins

Carnivore here refers to an order of mammals consisting of (among others) wolves, foxes, seals, hyenas, cats. Together with pangolins, they make up the clade Ferae which way the original name of the carnivore group in Linné's times.

The Contenders

Albatrosses and Penguins

Not sure if this is surprising or not. Penguins make up a seperate order of birds, and the closest related order of birds consists of various seabirds including albatrosses, petrels, storm petrels and shearwaters

Hippos and Whales
Falcons and Parrots

Falcons are more closely related to parrots than to hawks.

Canines and Raccoons

Dogs are related to trash pandas? Interesting.

Crustaceans and Insects

Wait, the crabs, lobsters, crawdads, and shrimp (crustaceans) we eat are related to the little buggers that flies around us? I never knew that.

We can add arachnids to that.

Carnivoran and Ungulates

Together with pangolins, cets and bats, they are the clade Scrotifera.

Chickens and Dinosaurs
Crocodiles and Alligators
Tenrecs and Elephants
Humans and Lemurs

Yep. Both are primates.

Sloths and Anteaters

Can't believe I had to add this one they're members of the same Order: Pilosa, which is part of Xenarthra (which also includes armadillos).

Deer and Cattle

Umm, is this really a thing?

Horses and Rhinos

Tapires being the third family of the order Perissodactyla.

Jellyfish and Sea Anemones

I'm not surprised about that, since jellyfish and sea anemones are very close.

Cephalopods and Gastropods

I already know that since around 2013.

8Load More
PSearch List