Created By: Aubren on April 9, 2016 Last Edited By: Pichu-kun on November 19, 2017

Artistic License Zoology

Critical Research Failure when it comes to how animals work or act

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Page Type:
trope
Sometimes, a work displays Critical Research Failure for animals in general. It's not just reptiles or birds, or even a singular species. This piece of work is just terrible at animals as a whole; to the point where any subset of zoology would shed an angry, sad, or even hysterical tear.

A Sub-Trope of both Artistic License Biology and Somewhere, This Index Is Crying. Compare to Artistic License Animal Care. Also see Animal Gender-Bender, All Animals Are Dogs, All Animals Are Domesticated, Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying, Artistic License Ornithology, and Somewhere, an Equestrian Is Crying.


Examples:

     General 
  • In fiction, cows give milk 24/7 even when no calves are around. In real life, just like most mammals, cows only give milk in a very specific time period: after giving birth. Farmers have to keep breeding them in order for them to produce milk.
  • Cobras in animation tend to be portrayed with spectacles on their hood regardless of species. In reality, only the Indian cobra has that trait. This portrayal leads to generic Informed Species cobras.
  • Guinea Pigs are often seen as the bigger versions of hamsters; and thus are often assumed to behave the same way. In real life, their genetics separate at the order Rodentia. They are as closely related to hamsters as rats are to squirrels; and naturally behave differently. An example would be how guinea pigs don't exercise on exercise wheels like hamsters do (meanwhile; mice, the hamster's closer relative, do run on exercise wheels).
  • Goldfish in fiction are presented as having very short lifespans. This is a myth. Goldfish only have short lifespans because they're treated incorrectly by their owners. When given proper diets and large enough fish tanks, a goldfish can easily live over a decade or even several decades.
  • Quail in fiction are often portrayed with a black head plume regardless of species. In real life, only the California & Gambel's quail have it.
  • As per Scavengers Are Scum, many animals stereotypically seen as scavengers are considered evil. In real life, most of these are either predators (hyenas, coyotes, jackals) or omnivores (crows), which do eat dead animals but no more than other predators or omnivores do. The only animals traditionally considered scavengers that play out this role are vultures.
  • Mammals are usually seen as being more intelligent than other types of animals. In reality, most vertebrates, and many invertebrates, are on average as intelligent as the average mammal. While there are many highly intelligent mammals, these are outliers, and such outliers exist in other animal groups (corvids, birds of prey, parrots, large constrictors, monitor lizards, crocodilians, sharks, etc).
  • Catfish are often considered as "bottom feeders" in media. In reality, most catfish are active predators, with the large ones being apex predators in their habitats.
  • Dogs Are Dumb is not remotely true. They might not be comparable to humans but dogs in general are rather smart. The stereotype that "cats are smarter than dogs" is inverted in reality. Studies have shown that dogs are overall smarter than cats.
  • Rabbits have only two upper incisors and two lower incisors, plus two "peg teeth" behind the uppers. Rabbits have no secondary incisors, no canines, and no premolars. Any rabbit that smiles showing a mouthful of teeth must be wearing dentures. Bugs Bunny is a frequent offender.
  • Hyenas and foxes are very frequently considered canines, even amongst their fans. Hyenas are in actuality more closer related to cats than dogs, and foxes are vulpines not canines
  • Despite popular belief, there are more types of foxes than just red foxes. Occasionally an Arctic Fox or Fennec Fox will appear in media but they are still Seldom-Seen Species'.
  • Baby rabbits are not called "bunnies". they're called "kittens".

Specific examples

Film — Animation
  • Marty from Madagascar is treated like he's having a Hollywood Mid-Life Crisis at age ten. While it's true wild zebras have a life expectancy of twenty-five, captive zebras have a life expectancy of forty.
  • It seems that the bulls and cows of Barnyard and its spinoff Back at the Barnyard are separate species. Case in point, Otis is a male cow and one episode has a female bull.
  • Jenna from Balto is a red Siberian Husky. While "red" Siberian Huskies do exist, they're more of a brownish tone than a bright red. Jenna's fur invokes Heroes Want Redheads more than the actual colour does.
  • Lion cubs in The Lion King lack the rosettes that actual young cubs have. The sole exception is Kion from The Lion Guard (who is actually too old for them). Concept art shows that Simba originally had rosettes, but the final product lacks the.

Film — Live-Action
  • King Kong (2005) had a lot of this. Amongst other things, it had featherless theropods and it had terrible ethology (animal psychology) on the whole. Excited apes don't intentionally try to break necks, for starters. And no generations-taught small pack predator would go after a herd of huge prey just to have to each their own kills. Nor would they abandon their target midhunt to take the riskier decision of attacking snacks from underneath sauropod's legs.

Literature
  • Both Tailchaser's Song and its Spiritual Successor Warrior Cats have cats becoming lethargic and overweight after being spayed or neutered. This is actually a myth. Your pets' personality and behavior won't change much if at all after the surgery, and if anything changes it's little things such as males being less aggressive.
  • Survivor Dogs:
    • Most Dobermans are depicted with naturally docked ears, with the exception being the White Sheep Storm. As pups they have natural ears but when they age suddenly their ears become upright, like a German Shepherds. Dobermans naturally have long tails and floppy ears. Early in their life, their breeder or owner can chose to crop their tails short and/or dock their ears upright.
    • Realistically, a lot of the dogs would have a tougher time surviving than the wild than depicted. Sweet, for example, is a Greyhound. They're known for getting injured very easily and getting cold very easily, due to the low amount of fat on their bodies. Sweet still fares perfectly well in the cold environment and is powerful enough to become an Alpha.
    • Dogs are depicted as monogamous, unlike real dogs.
    • Young foxes are "kits", not "cubs".
  • Warrior Cats features Partially Civilized Animals however they're not anthropomorphic enough to explain some of the issues:
    • The cats aren't always in Perfect Health however they noticeably lack a lot of issues common in feral cats, such as FIV (a cat equivalent to HIV).
    • Adult warriors can become From Stray to Pet if they wish to, though it's deeply looked down upon and they're seen as traitors to their Clan. In real life, most feral cats (as in, they were born and raised on the streets with little-to-no human contact) cannot be homed after kittenhood. This is why Trap-and-Release programs release the cats after spaying and neutering them, instead of trying to find them owners.
    • Neutered cats are portrayed as sluggish and fat. This is a reasons why cats fear humans. Learning about neutering helps persuade Rusty to run away to ThunderClan. This is an old myth. Cats, or dogs for that matter, don't become less active due to being spayed or neutered.
    • Cats are portrayed as monogamous animals that mate for life. In real life, cats are anything but monogamous.
    • Cats are depicted as diurnal in Warriors, rarely hunt at night, and don't have very good eyesight at night.
    • Cats almost never hunt in trees or even climb trees.
    • It's implied that cats mate for reasons besides breeding. At least one character has gotten pregnant when they thought they were infertile.
    • Warriors is pretty bad with genetics and cat colours. A lot of characters have colourings that are implausible or impossible for them.
    • Cat pregnancies are depicted as longer than they actually are.
  • One chapter of Seeker Bears incorrectly mentions a bear retracting their claws.

Video Games
  • In Nintendogs + Cats each breed comes in multiple colours, however in real life many of the breeds have very few, if any, varying patterns according to Breed Standards. This means several dogs have fake fur colours, such as Malteses with spots.

Western Animation
  • As mentioned on Typical Cartoon Animal Colors, canaries in fiction often have a yellow colour that isn't realistic for the species. Tweety from Looney Tunes is the Trope Codifier of yellow canaries.
  • The Lion Guard features a lot of this despite being an edutainment show:
    • Kion has rosettes at an age where they should be gone.
    • Fuli lives alone and hunts alone despite her young age. It is possible she's an orphan, but it's never clarified.
    • Fuli has rosettes despite being a cheetah, and her distinctive "tear-stripe" eye markings are much too short, making her look a awful lot like a leopard. King cheetahs (a rare type of cheetah) have them, but she lacks the other traits of king cheetahs, such as back stripes, so it's not clear if she is one of them or not. Word of God is they went with the rosettes because the young audience preferred this design over all the other ones they showed them.
    • Fuli runs too quickly for a cheetah her age. She runs like an adult. It would be less interesting if she didn't, though.
    • Despite the fact that real male hyenas are very low ranking, the hyenas here are led by a male. You could chalk it up to being the fact that there are only males in the group, but hyenas don't make same sexed groups.
    • Jasiri implies hyenas are only scavengers. It's true they will scavenge when given the chance like most predators, but they are not considered only scavengers anymore then lions or any other predators are because they mostly hunt. Lions actually scavenge more than hyenas do. The whole "hyenas are only scavengers" thing is a very outdated belief that contributes to the bad reputation of the animal, so it's sad they got this one wrong (especially since they were correctly portrayed as predators in both the movie and the pilot). At least she puts it in a positive light, so the writers are at least trying.
    • Some of the crocodiles are shown with overbites (only the top teeth visible when the mouth is closed), which is a trait of alligators.
    • Kiara and Kion don't seem to be from the same litter but are almost the same age. Lions have larger gaps between litters.
    • As in the original movie, the hyenas are sometimes heard to yelp like dogs. In reality, hyenas are not related to dogs, nor do they make sounds like them. For some reason, actual hyena sounds are only very rarely used in both the movie and the show.
    • Ushari is an Egyptian cobra (Naja haje), and for his first few appearances he has the markings of one. But later on, he's shown to have the external hood markings of an Indian cobra (Naja naja), which does not occur in Africa - in the same episode where his species is identified, no less. This is an exceedingly common trope with cobra species in media, on the level of All Animals Are Dogs.
    • Female ostriches are regularly portrayed with black and white feathers. In reality, only males are black and white — females are brown. Given that The Lion King II: Simba's Pride showed a female ostrich with accurate brown feathers, they really should've known better.
    • In "Fuli's New Family," several characters comment on how soft Fuli's fur is. In real life, cheetah hair is often coarse and rough.
    • Hyraxes don't rub against snake sheds to disguise their scent. Their main defense mechanism is hiding in the crevices of rocks or in trees.
    • The plot of "Call of the Drongo" hinges on a drongo learning that tricking other animals in order to steal their food is wrong and disruptive to the Circle of Life. If it were any other species of mimicking bird, this wouldn't have been a problem...fork-tailed drongos, however, obtain about a quarter of their daily calories by doing exactly this. It's not exactly nice, but it's perfectly natural and fairly crucial to their survival.
    • The zebras make horse sounds. While zebras do look similar to horses, they sound completely different. Since all three of the movies had zebras making accurate sounds, they should have known better.
    • Gazelles are all portrayed with long, straight horns regardless of sex. In reality, female gazelles have shorter horns than the males.
    • Aardwolves are stated to look like hyenas, but most of them get offended if someone mistakes them for one. Aardwolves actually are a species of hyena that has specialized to eat termites.
    • Giraffes are drawn with pink tongues, when real giraffes have black or purple tongues.
    • Southern red bishops are referred to as finches, when they are actually weavers.
    • This series in general has serious problems with scale. The male gorillas look too small when next to Kion.
Community Feedback Replies: 61
  • April 10, 2016
    Arivne
  • April 15, 2016
    Aubren
    Thank you!
  • April 15, 2016
    Snicka
    Supertrope for Super Persistent Predator, where a predatory animal (of any taxon) would go into absurdly long lengths to catch its prey, and for Noisy Nature, where animals make a lot of sound.

    I thought Somewhere An X Is Crying tropes are called Artistic License X now to make them less complaining.
  • April 15, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ This could be an index, potentially.
  • April 15, 2016
    Aubren
    @Snicka 1. I agree. 2. That depends on the critter. Passerines and many other birds tend to be noisy pretty often. Mammals like elephants and cetaceans are also consistently chattering (though out our hearing range). And when mating season rolls around, many creatures make noises when it's risky to do so. 3. They still exist. The description for Somewhere An Index Is Crying mentions that it's for the extreme end of it.

    I know when I watched King Kong, I was laughing so hard during the sauropod scene that I had to stop it. It was so bad, I couldn't watch it.

    @Dan 004 I like that idea.
  • April 15, 2016
    Aubren
    Sorry, it's actually Somewhere This Index Is Crying.
  • April 17, 2016
    Snicka
    Maybe we could make an Artistic License Animal Behaviour supertrope, which would have Super Persistent Predator, Noisy Nature, All Animals Are Dogs, etc. as subtropes. And examples which don't fit any of the subtropes, like the mindless sauropod herd in King Kong, can go as examples under the supertrope.

    This reminds me, I think The Stampede could be a trope itself - animal stampedes are a common enough adversary in media to be considered a trope.
  • April 17, 2016
    EdnaWalker
    ^ I bet that Artistic License Animal Bahavior would make a good supertrope and that The Stampede would make a good trope. For the former, this could include non-subtrope-fitting things like Hamster Guinea Pig Conflation and All Cobras Are Indian Cobras.
  • April 17, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ "animal behavior" would then be a subtrope to this, right?

    Hamster and guinea pig won't fall into "animal behaviors" I think.
  • April 18, 2016
    alnair20aug93
    See Somewhere An Equestrian Is Crying when it's exclusive to horses.
  • April 18, 2016
    EdnaWalker
  • April 18, 2016
    jamespolk
    Love the name. "Artistic License X" is and always has been stupid as it assumes every error is a deliberate creative decision.
  • April 18, 2016
    DAN004
    ^ because pointing out errors is bad, y'know? I remembered a mod saying that "You Fail X Forever" is insulting and "Artistic License X" titles would make it sure that the examples are the artist indeed doing it intentionally for art instead of being an honest mistake.

    I do prefer current title though.
  • April 23, 2016
    Aubren
    So do you guys want this to be an index or a trope? It can't be both, right?

    I created it specifically as a trope for when a work fails so hard at most/every single animal they portray, it's clear that they don't know a thing about zoology. (Hence creatimg disheartening and hilariously bad results).

    This could be created into an index as well. What do you guys want?
  • April 24, 2016
    DAN004
    A page can be both a trope and an index you know. It's when it's a big supertrope.
  • April 27, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    Hamster Guinea Pig Conflation? Wha? That's not a trope or a YKTTW yet. Is it about people confusing the two? I don't see how you could. Maybe rats and mice, or hares and rabbits, but not hamsters and guinea pigs.
  • April 28, 2016
    Aubren
    @Dan 004 Yay!

    @Pichu-kun 3 or 4 of their links weren't tropes. Looks like someone got into a "categorization loop" and didn't double check their stuff. I can't follow them completely, either. It does soumds like they're talking about animal mixups though.

    (Is that cobra one just about portraying snakes as cobras, instead of rattlers or vipers or "normal" snakes?)
  • April 29, 2016
    Snicka
    @Pichu-kun Surprisingly, I know a lot of people who confuse hamsters with guinea pigs, or simply assume that the latter is a bigger version of the former, but their behaviour is essentially the same - which is very much not true if you know anything about these animals.

    @Aubren The cobra one was an old, now discarded YKTTW that was about how cobras in media are always portrayed with the iconic "spectacles" pattern on their hood, even though only the Indian Cobra has it. It simply got merged into Somewhere A Herpetologist Is Crying.
  • May 3, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    So is this basically "Artistic License - Zoology"? Compare to Artistic License Animal Care.

    In the summary general examples can be posted, right?

    • In fiction, cows give milk 24/7 even when no calves are around. In real life, just like most mammals, cows only give milk in a very specific time period: after giving birth. Farmers have to keep breeding them in order for them to give milk.
    • Goldfish in ficton are presented as having very short lifespans. This is a myth. Goldfish only have short lifespans because they're treated incorrectly by their owners. When given proper diets and large enough fish tanks, a goldfish can easily live over a decade or even several decades.
  • May 3, 2016
    DAN004
    "Marmot" is guinea pig, right?
  • May 13, 2016
    Aubren
    @Pichu-Kun If that's what you guys want, but it was originally intended to be for media that messes up every animal example it gives.

    Adding it because I need more examples in general. This trope is starving!
  • May 13, 2016
    Aubren
    @Dan 004

    Wikipedia: "Marmots are large squirrels in the genus Marmota"

    Guinea Pig article: "Genus Cavia"

    Nope.

    Why?
  • May 14, 2016
    EdnaWalker
    More general examples:
    • Guinea Pigs are often confused for bigger versions of hamsters, and are often assumed to behave in essentially the same way. In real life, they are both different animals that behave differently. For example, Guinea pigs don't exercise on exercise wheels like hamsters (and the less confused for hamsters mice) do.
    • Cobras in fiction are portrayed with spectacles on their hood regardless of species. In real life, only the Indian cobra has that trait. This portrayal leads to generic Informed Species cobras.

  • May 14, 2016
    DAN004
    ^^ then I'm indeed making a confusion lol. Yeah, marmot is another thing that gets conflated with guinea pigs and hamsters.
  • May 21, 2016
    EdnaWalker
    • Quail in fiction are portrayed with a black head plume regardless of species, when in real life, only the California quail and the Gambel's quail have it.
  • June 26, 2016
    EdnaWalker
    Bump?
  • June 26, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    ^^^^^^ So basically a series committing Critical Research Failure on multiple animals?
  • July 3, 2016
    Aubren
    @Pichu-Kun

    Multiple types of animals.
  • July 26, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    • Marty from Madagascar is treated like he's having a Midlife Crisis at age ten. While it's true wild zebras have a life expectancy of twenty-five, captive zebras have a life expectancy of forty.
  • July 26, 2016
    Bk-notburgerking
    - As per Scavengers Are Scum, many animals stereotypically seen as scavengers are considered evil. In real life, most of these are either predators (hyenas, coyotes, jackals) or omnivores (crows), which do eat dead animals but no more than other predators or omnivores do. The only animals traditionally considered scavengers that play out this role are vultures.

    - Mammals are usually seen as being more intelligent than other types of animals. In reality, most vertebrates, and many invertebrates, are on average as intelligent as the average mammal. While there are many highly intelligent mammals, these are outliers, and such outliers exist in other animal groups (corvids, birds of prey, parrots, large constrictors, monitor lizards, crocodilians, sharks, etc).
  • July 26, 2016
    Bk-notburgerking
    - As per Scavengers Are Scum, many animals stereotypically seen as scavengers are considered evil. In real life, most of these are either predators (hyenas, coyotes, jackals) or omnivores (crows), which do eat dead animals but no more than other predators or omnivores do. The only animals traditionally considered scavengers that play out this role are vultures.

    - Mammals are usually seen as being more intelligent than other types of animals. In reality, most vertebrates, and many invertebrates, are on average as intelligent as the average mammal. While there are many highly intelligent mammals, these are outliers, and such outliers exist in other animal groups (corvids, birds of prey, parrots, large constrictors, monitor lizards, crocodilians, sharks, etc).
  • July 26, 2016
    Bk-notburgerking
    Damn double post
  • July 26, 2016
    Bk-notburgerking
    - Catfish are often considered as "bottom feeders" in media. In reality, most catfish are active predators, with the large ones being apex predators in their habitats.
  • July 26, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    • Warrior Cats uses with the idea that neutered cats become lazy and lethargic after surgery. This is a myth. Neutering or spaying your cat will not change their behavior, and if it does it's mild things like males no longer being as aggressive as they once were.
  • July 27, 2016
    Bk-notburgerking
    - It is often stated that some orca pods specialize in hunting great white sharks. There are only two (possibly three) cases of orcas killing great whites, and the two observed cases involved small sharks far from fully grown. In addition, in at least one of the cases, the orcas were acting in defense.
  • July 27, 2016
    Snicka
    Most of the suggested examples have nothing to do with the work taking artistic license for more than one type of animal.
  • July 27, 2016
    Pichu-kun
    Apparently the YKTTW changed concepts to be about zoology in general.
  • July 27, 2016
    DAN004
    This is potentially an index, too.
  • November 21, 2016
    Aubren
    @Snicka You're right. I was kind of pulled in two different directions: media that fail at zoology forever, and common zoological problems fratured in media. Most of these examples probably belong in another related trope.
  • November 22, 2016
    Arivne
  • November 22, 2016
    Snicka
    ^^ & ^^^^ If this is reworked into "common zoological mistakes in media", then the description should be rewritten accordingly.

    And DAN is right, this could be reworked as an index for tropes like Ostrich Head Hiding, Insect Gender Bender, Misplaced Wildlife and other common zoological errors in fiction.
  • December 16, 2016
    Aubren
    @Snicka Silly as it may sound, my struggle mostly lies in the name. If there's a better name for "this media sucks at portraying animals" let me know, because my hands are tied in indecision at the moment.
  • December 18, 2016
    oneuglybunny
    General
    • Rabbits have only two upper incisors and two lower incisors, plus two "peg teeth" behind the uppers. Rabbits have no secondary incisors, no canines, and no premolars. Any rabbit that smiles showing a mouthful of teeth must be wearing dentures. Bugs Bunny is a frequent offender.
  • December 18, 2016
    ADrago
    I think this should be renamed to Artistic License Zoology to make the name sound less negative and to make it consistent with the other tropes of this type.
  • December 19, 2016
    Arivne
    ^ Seconding this.
  • December 19, 2016
    Daefaroth
    ^^^While I have no problem with the example in general, in my opinion a Funny Animal that walks and talks gets a pass as there is no point in arguing which traits should be animal and which ones should be human.
  • December 19, 2016
    Snicka
    ^^ I agree. We don't need a page where people can just complain how much a work "sucks" at portraying animals.
  • March 10, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    • Warrior Cats:
      • Neutered cats are portrayed as sluggish and fat. This is a reasons why cats fear humans and learning this helps persuade Rusty to run away. This is an old myth. Cats, or dogs for that matter, don't become less active due to being spayed or neutered.
      • Cats are portrayed as monogamous animals that mate for life. In real life, cats are anything but monogamous.
  • March 14, 2017
    alnair20aug93
    • It seems that the bulls and cows of Back At The Barnyard are separate species. Case in point of Otis is a male cow, and one episode has a female bull.
  • March 14, 2017
    Madrugada
    The name "Somewhere A Zoologist Is Crying" is not acceptable. If it is launched under that name it will be immediately delaunched and cut. This is not open for debate. We are not allowing any new "...is crying" pages.

    The decision to change them to "Artistic License X" was because they were full of either complaining about how horribly some creator got something wrong, or preening over how much more well-informed the editor who added an example was. than the creator who got it so horribly wrong.

    Also, if this trope is "a work get a bunch of different animals wrong", than examples will need to be works which in fact get more than one type of animal wrong, not 1) a list of factoids about things that works tend it get wrong in general or 2) not works with only one animal mentioned.

    This is a mod ruling.
  • March 14, 2017
    Arivne
    Changing the working title to Artistic License Zoology as an interim measure. If we come up with another, better title it can be changed before launch.
  • March 24, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    • Survivor Dogs:
      • Most Doberman's are depicted with naturally docked ears, with the exception being the White Sheep Storm.
      • Realistically, a lot of the dogs would have a tougher time surviving than the wild than depicted. Sweet for example is a Greyhound. They're known for getting injured very easily and getting cold very easily, due to the low amount of fat on their bodies. Sweet still fares perfectly well in the cold environment and is powerful enough to become an Alpha.
  • March 24, 2017
    Getta
    This trope sounds really broad...
  • April 21, 2017
    Snicka
    The trope is really all over the place and tries to be several things at the same time. "Common misconceptions about animals", "Multiple types of animals are incorrectly portrayed", and a particularly complain-y "These works just plain suck at zoology".

    I think the best to do here is to get rid of the examples, and turn this into an index of animal tropes that are not Truth In Television.
  • April 21, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    ^ The term "zoology" encompasses a huge range of topics.
  • April 21, 2017
    Malady
    Typo: Lion King: "lacks them."

    Merge the Warrior Cats stuff? Or don't mention it in the first one...
  • April 22, 2017
    Snicka
    Looking at the Artistic License Biology index, this is already covered there. Over half of the examples listed there are zoology-related. I suggest we simply move the examples from this draft to that page and bomb it.
  • April 22, 2017
    PrincessPandaTrope
    Like Snicka said, this is pretty much Same But More Specific as Artistic License Biology.
  • April 22, 2017
    Getta
    ^ Nah, we move the examples there to here. :D
  • April 30, 2017
    Pichu-kun
    I was going to suggest adding those examples here, but if this gets scrapped then I'll just add these examples to the biology page.
  • November 19, 2017
    pgj1997
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=9d5nqjkxjbj22zrtoo56wias