Common Errors in Media:
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Reptiles in General
- Referring to reptiles, especially snakes, as "poisonous", when most times people mean "venomous". There are very few poisonous reptiles anywhere in the world, although there are plenty of poisonous amphibians. Poison causes harm when consumed, tends to exist in an animal's flesh and is generally used as a deterrent to predators, whereas venom is a modified digestive enzyme usually confined to specialized sacs within the animal's mouth/fangs that must be injected directly into the bloodstream to be effective and generally used by predators. Some types of venom can even be safely consumed, though we wouldn't recommend putting that to the test.
- Portraying reptiles and amphibians as one and the same, or using the two terms interchangeably. In reality, reptiles and amphibians are only related superficially, considering that the two lineages separated over 300 million years ago. The closest living relatives to reptiles today are the birds: living dinosaurs, and therefore part of the reptile group themselves. Crocodylians and especially turtles often get this; they are amphibious, meaning they are at home on land and in water, but they are not true amphibians. In fact, crocodiles are actually far more closely related to birds than they are to other categories of reptiles, let alone to amphibians.
- Portraying predatory reptiles (particularly crocodilians and snakes) as chasing after their prey for long distances. In reality, most carnivorous reptiles are ambush predators, preferring to sneak up on their prey rather than exhaust themselves by running after it. However, crocodiles do follow the migratory patterns of their prey, if the prey migrates. Inverted when the species that are capable of chasing prey are depicted as sluggish due to mammalian bias. Komodo dragons often fall victim to this: they use speed, agility, stamina (superior than bears or big cats and similar to wolves, unusually for a lizard) and actual venom, not ambush tactics or bacteria, to kill prey quickly, instead of over days or weeks as most documentaries claim.
- For that matter, forgetting that herbivorous reptiles even exist. While all snakes and crocodilians are carnivores, there are several lizard and turtle species (especially tortoises) that exclusively eat plants.
- Portraying all lizards and snakes as egg-layers. In fact, an entire family of snakes, Viperidae, is named for the fact that they have live birth. Though given that all Viperidae are venomous and some are deadly (the deadly one Linnaeus and other early taxonomists would have been familiar with is Vipera ammodytes), it's surprising that they got close enough to figure that out and not surprising that most people aren't willing to and just assume vipers lay eggs.
- The belief that reptiles can survive in extreme heat due to being cold-blooded. In reality they have no real means of releasing heat by themselves as they do not sweat, so their body temperatures can climb to deadly levels if they are unable to reach a cooler spot.
- Having "lizard" and "reptile" being interchangeable terms. Reptiles include snakes (which technically are lizards, ironically), crocodilians, turtles, and birds (since they are theropod dinosaurs themselves) as well as lizards. However, in modern (phylogeny-based) classification systems, even the word "reptile" is replaceable with the term "sauropsid", which was coined to include both birds and "traditional" reptiles, and carries less historical baggage.
- Reptile eggs being all hard-shelled like birds. While some reptiles lay eggs like this, many lay soft-shelled eggs.
- The fact that reptiles and amphibians are prime carriers of salmonella is rarely mentioned in fiction. People will commonly touch them (or worse, lick them) with no ill after-effects.
- Snakes that can blink. Real snakes have immovable eyelids and therefore cannot blink. Conversely, giving other reptiles snake-like eyes. Geckos and skinks may have eyes like this, but most other lizards don't; nor do turtles or crocodylians.
- Snakes tying themselves into knots either willingly (IE: using themselves as a makeshift rope) or as a means of being defeated. In reality, a snake's skeletal structure and ability to make themselves rigid (thanks to their powerful muscular system) means that a snake being tied in a knot is extremely rare. About the only known documented cases of snakes tying themselves into knots were captive specimens suffering from IBD (Inclusion Body Disease), a fatal illness that causes involuntary movements (including tying themselves in knots).
- Claiming that snakes are deaf. This is a case of Science Marches On since, yes, snakes can hear. They do so by picking vibrations in the air (or on the ground) through their bodies and into their inner ear. Snakes were believed to hear with their tongues, which are really used to aid the nose in smelling. When a snake flicks its tongue it's sniffing.
- Portraying venomous snakes as having huge fangs. While some of them, such as the Gaboon Viper, do have large fangs (to the point where they have evolved so that said fangs fold against the roof of the mouth just so the snake can close its jaws), many venomous snake species actually have rather small fangs.
- Especially in cartoons, showing a well-fed snake trying to slither away and getting stuck. While this does sometimes happen in Real Life, most of the time, snakes usually have a more effective way of escaping if necessary after it eats a large meal. It simply throws up the meal, allowing it to move more quickly. Better to go hungry and live to hunt another day than get killed right now.
- Showing all snakes as having heat vision; only members of the pit viper (Crotalinae) family and certain constrictor snakes have this trait. Other snakes like garters or true vipers, do not have the pits that give the pit vipers their name.
- Describing snakes as slimy. This may be because of the sheen their scales give off, which to the unknowing can look like wetness, and given how most people are afraid of snakes don't bother to check by touch. Snakes are actually dry and usually cool to the touch.
- Snakes being portrayed as eating any sort of living thing they can get their coils around. In reality, many species of snake are notoriously picky eaters. Some species will eat a wide variety of prey, while others will only dine on a few particular species.
- Portraying all snakes as eating mammals (especially rodents). While mammals are common prey for several species, this doesn't apply to all snakes. Some species of snake are even too small to hunt any sort of mammal and instead prey on invertebrates.
- Constricting snakes are often depicted as not having teeth. Truth is, pythons, anacondas, and boas all have very sharp needle-like teeth which are curved backwards in order to hold onto their prey and prevent it from escaping. About the only snakes that don't have teeth are the various species of egg-eating snakes, who don't need teeth since they eat eggs (said eggs are cracked open using bony protrusions in the snake's throat).
- The idea that constricting snakes crush their prey to death is a myth. However, the idea they suffocate their prey is also shown to be inaccurate. The reality is that constrictors kill their prey by squeezing until their prey's blood vessels rupture. Not only does this cause internal bleeding, but the ruptured blood vessels near the brain cause the prey to die of asphyxiation much faster than if the snake were to rely on killing its prey by squeezing all the air from its lungs.
- Snakes mindlessly swallowing things whole without consideration for the size of its prey. While this can happen in real life, it is much rarer than media would like one to believe. It's more likely that a snake that ate too much (and had its stomach ruptured as a result) was starving and desperate for any meal it could get.
- Likewise the idea that snakes eat prey that's still alive. Apart from invertebrates, this is simply not true. Constrictors have actually been documented checking to make sure their prey was dead. Captive constrictors were given meals with simulated heartbeats and would only stop constricting when said heartbeat stopped.
- Any time a snake—especially in fantasy settings—is portrayed as being both venomous and constricting. Usually it's one or the other; very few snake species can do both (mostly rear-fanged species) and even then, they won't be equally efficient.
- Using “python”, “boa” and “anaconda” interchangeably. Pythons lay eggs and are found in Africa, Asia and Australia; boas (including anacondas) give live birth and are mostly found in the Americas.
- Snakes do not "unhinge" their jaws. Rather the lower jaw on a snake is comprised of two separate bones connected by very flexible, loose skin. It actually doesn't take much time at all for a snake to spread their jaw; five seconds tops. If the jaw actually unhinged, the snake would be in pain every time it ate something.
- Most snakes are solitary creatures for the majority of their lives, and very, very few cluster in large masses. It is usually not wise to keep numerous captive snakes in the same cage, especially a small terrarium. A few snakes do group together in cold weather dens, and some species form "mating balls" (the green anaconda is a famous example), but generally snakes want to be alone, and can even be aggressive to members of their own species.
- The vast majority of snakes depicted on screen (outside of documentaries) come from a few stock species, typically commonly bred species with a reputation for calmness, regardless of what the viewer is informed the species is meant to be.
- Ball pythons and corn snakes are the most commonly used snakes, often standing in even for venomous species. These species are fairly tolerant of being massed together in the way Hollywood loves, even though this isn't a natural behavior for most snakes, and are quite unlikely to strike an actor. Albino corn snakes are commonly bred and are often used to add color variety without actually using more species. Since these are also among the most popular pet snakes, this can easily become a case of Terrifying Pet Store Rat.
- Burmese pythons are the most commonly used large snake, and are also available in albino coloration (any large yellowish snake you see on film is almost certainly an albino burm). Boa constrictors and reticulated pythons occasionally see some screen time; boas are more common, but retics are the longest snake species on earth and not uncommonly bred, and therefore stand in when a truly impressive snake is desired.
- Venomous snakes are usually depicted by the above named ball pythons and corn snakes (and sometimes Burmese pythons if the work is especially egregious and wants to depict a gigantic venomous snake), since most viewers can't tell an elapid from a colubrid and they're far less risky to handle. The exceptions are rattlesnakes and cobras, which are utterly unmistakable to even the most uninformed viewer. Rattlesnakes are usually depicted by western diamondbacks, cobras by spectacled cobras. Both species are common, are iconic for their genus, and are easily provoked into their trademark threat poses.
- Iguanas are frequently used as a stand-in for many other types of lizards and given traits they do not possess for reasons likely related to the Terrifying Pet Store Rat trope, since iguanas are generally easy to come by when filming and, if well socialized, pretty docile and easy to work with.
- Eating insects. Iguanas eat leafy greens, fruits, and vegetables. They have been known to eat insects and mealworms in the wild; doing so typically indicates a dietary deficiency and is purely opportunistic, and not good for them in large quantities.
- They can actually change color, slightly— they are mostly green in a neutral state, mostly orange when is trying to show off as a sexually mature male, and 'greyed out' when angry or scared.
- They also have a slightly sticky tongue, and when they eat, will flick the tongue at the food once or twice, and moist vegetables will stick to the tongue long enough for him to get them into the mouth, but a chameleon's tongue it ain't.
- Chameleons changing color and pattern to blend into their environments is a common belief, but not a very accurate one. While some species do change color as a form of camouflage, most of the time it simply indicates the creature's mood, with brighter patterns only coming out for social signaling such as aggression/defensiveness and mating displays. A few species also use the ability for thermo regulation.
- Lizards with their legs held under the body. Only archosaurs and synapsids do that in Real Life. Lizards have the trunks of their legs laterally bent, giving them a sprawled posture.
- Showing turtles' carapaces as being removable/a type of clothing/with a little furnished apartment on the inside. While this is only done in slapstick cartoons, young children might not realize that a real turtle's carapace is as removable as a human's ribcage, if not less so. The carapace is formed from the turtle's ribcage and other skeletal elements fusing together with bony scales. There are animals whose shell is essentially a mobile home, but the turtle is not one of them. Removing a turtle's shell would leave you with a very gory dead turtle.
- Assuming all turtles are slow on land. While they're no cheetahs, most of them are still capable of sprinting short distances when threatened.
- Assuming all turtles can swim. Yes there are sea-turtles which live in the ocean and terrapins which are equally mobile on land and in fresh water, but tortoises live exclusively on land; most species will sink like a stone if placed in water too deep to stand in. Drowning is a very real hazard faced by island tortoises.
- Portraying turtles with teeth and lipped mouths. Turtles and tortoises have toothless beaks.
- Depicting alligators with V-shaped snouts and/or interlocking teeth, which are traits of crocodiles. Alligators have U-shaped snouts, and the upper teeth overlaps on the bottom jaw when the mouth is closed. Conversely, whenever crocodiles are portrayed with an overbite, despite this being how members of the genus Alligator are distinguished from crocodylids as well as other alligatorids like caimans. Although these inaccuracies may be due to the fact most people have trouble telling crocodiles and alligators apart.
- Crocodilians are commonly colored as green in many portrayals, but in real life alligators are blue, gray, brown, or black.
- Portraying crocodiles as being able to stick their tongues out of their mouths, which they can't as their tongues fused to the roof of their mouths so they would block water from coming into the airway. On the other hand, alligators are capable of sticking their tongues out to some degree as theirs is not as fused.
- Never showing a high-walking crocodile. Crocodiles high-walk almost all the time on land.
- Referring to crocodiles as lizards. Lizards have overlapping scales, sprawled limbs, three-chambered hearts, and bony eye rings. Crocodilians have scutes rather than true scales, semi-erect limbs, four-chambered hearts, and no bony eye rings. As mentioned before, crocodilians are more closely related to birds than to any other reptile including lizards.
- Crocodilians are often believed not to shed their skin unlike other reptiles. They do, though by shedding individual scutes as opposed to large folds of skin like with snakes and lizards.
Frogs and Toads
- Portraying a frog or a toad as capable of turning its head. Their necks are very short and not flexible, so they can't turn, lift or lower their heads like humans can.
- The idea that frogs and toads give people warts is not only an example of this but also Artistic License – Biology in general. Warts are caused by human papilomavirus that enters the outer layer of skin via a cut. It's still recommended not to touch frogs or toads; not only many species can be poisonous, but touching the skin of one will actually hurt the amphibian more than it will hurt you (it's the equivalent of holding one's lungs).
- The myth may have come from the misconception that toads have warts, since the bumps on their skin resemble such. Although these bumps contain parotoid glands which they secret their toxins from.
- Describing toads as slimy. Toad skin is actually usually dry and bumpy, since unlike frogs they spend much of their time on land.
- The "Travelers Assurance" commercial featuring a rattlesnake and a few jackrabbits has the rattlesnake rattle at potential prey. Perhaps the snake was only trying to intimidate.
- The Geico Gecko is obviously not supposed to be entirely realistic, if only because he talks, walks upright and hawks car insurance, but real life day geckos do not have eyelids. In fact, one of the only types of geckos that does is the leopard gecko. Made worse in one commercial when he talks to a non-cartoon leopard gecko and it licks its eye like the type of gecko the mascot is supposed to be. Leopard geckos can lick their eyes, but usually only if there's something in their eye that's bothering them, so this is a double failurenote . This is due to the hash made of the family Gekkonidae in popular culture, since only the (appropriately named) eyelid geckos in the Eublepharinae subfamily can blink, but all eublepharines lack the sticky toe pads of "true" geckos, and most people expect all geckos to be able to walk up walls and blink, not knowing that the two traits are mutually exclusive.
- The snake seen in The Vision of Escaflowne is very obviously a constrictor but Hitomi is told that one bite from it will be fatal. While Escaflowne is set in a fantasy world where anything is possible the disparity is still rather jarring.
- In the third episode of Excel Saga, Tetsuko is poisoned when he's bitten by an anaconda, even though in real life anacondas aren't venomous. Considering the series' nature, this was likely intentional.
- The Doraemon movie "New Nobita's Great Demon-Peko and the Exploration Party of Five" had Gian getting menaced by a python, which for some reason has the color patterns of a gaboon viper. It is also unrealistically massive, almost rivaling Gigantophis in scale.
- In Batman: Year One, Batman uses darts tipped with anaconda venom. Anacondas are nonvenomous constrictors. Might have worked if he was trying to bluff an enemy, something he is known to do, but the story plays it 100% straight.
- Jason's iguana Quincy is initially never seen being fed anything other than insects. Eventually the author seems to have caught on and he's been fed fruits and vegetables in some strips.
- In one strip, Quincy eats chocolate chip cookies with Roger. Chocolate is poisonous to most animals, including lizards.
- Played for Laughs with the incredibly stupid crocs from Pearls Before Swine. However, the series does have smart crocodiles such as Larry's wife Patty and their son Junior.
- On the other hand, Junior is portrayed as a vegetarian, when crocodiles cannot digest plant matter. But then again, they cannot walk on their hind legs or talk either.
- One Sunday strip describes caimans as "little alligators". The black caiman is even larger than the American alligator and is the largest reptile in the Americas.
Films — Animated
- This trope is Averted/Parodied in Over the Hedge. A turtle is a reptile, but often mistaken for an amphibian. The writers knew this and pointed it out multiple times, but a more important error is played straight in that his shell is removable. Also parodied when Verne the turtle hears the exterminator sniffing the air and accurately rattling off a list of of suspected critters before possibly invoking the trope, and then subverting it.
- Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli in The Jungle Book, justified by Rule of Funny, but Kaa is waaay longer than is at all realistic, and able to move (for instance, rotating a constricted victim to free up a loop of body) and even though he's supposed to be some sort of python and he's so thin! Real pythons are extremely muscular and the larger ones get quite thick around the middle, since they need the strength to suffocate their prey.
- Pascal from Tangled for some reason is actually drawn with fixed eyeballs. In real life, a chameleon's eyeballs are independent from its skull, and that allows the entire eyeball to move across its head, giving the chameleon a larger field of vision.
- A strange example in The Princess and the Frog. Louie the alligator is correctly depicted with overlapping upper teeth, but the other gators have crocodile-like interlocking teeth.
- Speed from The Swan Princess is portrayed as being slow and clumsy on land but lightning-fast in the water. Judging by his overall size and the shape of his shell, Speed is a type of tortoise, many of which can't swim at all. Of course, they're also not nearly as slow on land as Speed is made out to be, either.
Films — Live-Action
- Snakes on a Plane is a horrendous violator of biology, and even ignores rules which they mention within the film. The film is not meant to be serious, it is simply silly fun, and the day is actually saved because one character knows Mortal Kombat, but the biology does not even deserve an "F;" it gets an "Incomplete" because it did not even show up to enough classes to qualify as a full-time student:
- The snakes are shown as shockingly aggressive, actively pursuing prey, whereas most snakes (including those shown in the film) are relatively sedentary; the snakes in the film bite repeatedly for no apparent reason, simply killing without eating the people or defending themselves, and then move to attack and kill other people who are neither a threat nor viable prey. The snakes are described as being so aggressive and violent because they are being stimulated by sexual pheromones, except that snakes are not praying mantids or black widows and do not kill their mates while they have sex. If snakes were to be brought into a violent frenzy when in the presence of sexual pheromones they would require separate pheromones for each individual species, and would be just as likely to attack each other as humans, as any other species would be as much of a threat/competition as the people would.
- The Burmese python practically growls and flashes fang like an aggressive dog. Then it manages to kill the jerkass in moments, when in reality it would take much longer even if the guy had a heart attack almost immediately. Finally, the python has no problem getting human shoulders down its throat. Assuming it could swallow something that large, it takes quite some time for a snake to work large prey down its throat. At least the python seems to still have been working on its meal when the poor thing got sucked out the window.
- The Yogi Bear movie follows this trope to a T with a turtle that inexplicably sports a long, sticky tongue like a frog or chameleon. Turtles sometimes do have fairly long tongues, but they do not operate like a frog's, and some species actually have the tongue fused to the bottom of their mouth. Granted, the turtle in question is a fictional species and its frog-like tongue is presented as a abnormal trait unique to it. At least they mentioned turtle shells are not removable.
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks had a crocodile who wears false teeth. Crocodilians constantly regrow teeth throughout their lives, until at an old age in which they stop regenerating teeth.
- The "coral snake" in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is depicted with huge, viper-like fangs - and coral snakes, though indeed front-fanged, are elapids which means these fangs are hollow, fixed, and on the small side (because the snake needs to close its mouth). And the coloration and large size mean it's likely a nonvenomous milk snake. Point moot?
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets shows smaller snakes living in the Chamber of Secrets, which is depicted as damp and cold with no access to sunlight. It might suit a Basilisk, but it would not be a satisfactory home for normal cold-blooded snakes.
- In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone the snake in the zoo winking at Harry. Snakes don't have eyelids. And he's talking to it although snakes can't hear very well, though that could be Justified since he was doing it magically anyway. The Basilisk, as a fictional species, is probably exempt from this trope, but it also can hear Harry and is described as ripping and tearing its prey in an unsnakelike manner. Nagini had a lot of behaviors most snakes would never actually do although this may be a result of being a Horcrux. Also, she had the floor of the tunnel approach to the Chamber being covered in skeletons of rats and such. Snakes don't leave skeletons when they eat — unless those rats were killed by the Basilisk's stare and their flesh decomposed.
- In the Sherlock Holmes story "The Adventure of the Speckled Band", the murderer trains a "swamp adder", supposedly the deadliest snake in India, to respond to a whistle and crawl through some ductwork and down a bell pull-cord to bite its victim. There are many problems with this:
- There is no species of snake called the swamp adder, and at the time the story was published (1892) there were no known adders in India.
- Snakes are generally hard of hearing, and it is debatable whether one could be taught to respond to a whistle.
- While snakes can crawl up and down solid objects, there's no way one can crawl up a cord.
- Holmes deduces that the snake was trained by using a saucer of milk as a reward. No snake will drink milk. This appears to be derived from an Indian myth that pouring milk down a snake hole would placate it and bring good luck.
- Snakes cannot be trained like mammals can. It would require different methodology than typical mammal training, and no one's bothered to put the time and work into psychoanalyzing snakes. While you can target-train a reptile (and most anything else), that would have required the murderer being in the room with the target, at which point no sensible person is going to use a snake.
- Snakebites are seldom so inconspicuously-placed as the murderer counted upon them being, and an adder's bite would draw further attention to itself by localized swelling, reddish lines beneath the skin, or (in the case of anaphylaxis, the one result that might kill someone this fast) severe inflammation that spreads out from the wound to the face and throat.
- Invoked in The Reptile Room with the Incredibly Deadly Viper, which was named by Dr. Montgomery with the sole intention of tricking a number of herpetologists. (The viper was actually very friendly and harmless.) Played straight in that the thing cried at the end of the book.
- In Holes, the Warden's nailpolish includes rattlesnake venom, which she claims is "perfectly harmless ... when it's dry." This is either Blatant Lies, False Reassurance, or simple bad research, because venoms are actually more potent when they're dried. Once all the liquid evaporates, what's left is the cytotoxins (and possibly neurotoxin, depending on the species).
- That said, it did leave a very nasty wound when she scratched Mr. Sir with her nails (they had been freshly painted and were still wet).
- Holes also has a problem with it's (entirely fictional) Yellow Spotted Lizards. They are said to be quite venomous, to the point that one bite is a death sentence when the Rattle-Snake bite could be survivable if treated (a kid intentionally provokes a Rattle-Snake at the beginning of the book to get out of Camp Green Lake) and Mr. Sir explicitly says that he keeps his fire-arm for the Yellow-Spotted Lizards. While the Mexican Bearded Lizard and Gila Monster venom is as potent as a Rattle-Snake, they have inefficient delivery systems that relies on chewing a victim to deliver the envenomed saliva rather than injection like a Rattle-Snake. In fact, surviving a bite from both creatures is quite likely (though death can still result, so don't try it at home... at best, you're going to be sick for the next week). The film takes it a step further and depicts the Yellow-Spotted Lizard as having snake like fangs, while venomous North American lizards venom sacks are located in the lower jaw, not the upper jaw. In both the book and film, the lizards were also quite agile and quick... but the Gila Monster and Mexican Bearded Lizard are rather lethargic in real life. (Well, it was enforced in the film because the lizards were played by bearded dragons, a quicker lizard.)
- The Malloreon: Sadi feeds milk and cheese to his pet snake Zith (and, later, her babies). Granted, Zith isn't even close to a real-world species of snake.
- Linda Davies’ novel, Nest of Vipers, has a photograph of a snake on the cover. However, the snake on the cover is a scarlet kingsnake which is not only not a viper, it is also non-venomous.
Live Action TV
- Averted (partially, since they used the inexact term "poisonous" rather than "venomous") in True Blood, which has a healer describing Komodo dragons as poisonous. This is true but was only discovered recently: previously, researchers thought that Komodo-dragon-bite victims died because of sepsis from bacteria in the lizards' mouths. Unclear whether the TV writers had heard of the brand new research or were just making up something that happened to be right.
- Acknowledged in an episode of The X-Files, where a former member of a Satanic high school PTA (no, seriously) is swallowed by one of his pythons. Scully voices that it shouldn't be possible because eating such a large kill would take days rather than a few hours. It's also played straight when the snake eats the man feet first rather than start with the head.
- In an episode of Frasier, Kate Costas's finger is bitten off by an iguana and has to be reattached. Iguanas are herbivores and, while they will bite in defense, their jaws aren't particularly strong (although their teeth are razor-sharp and can cause severe lacerations). More of this trope appears when the iguana runs off at an incredible speed (the film is sped up).
- Averted in Under the Umbrella Tree. Iggy (an iguana) eats vegetables, and his Trademark Favorite Food is turnips.
- Even Reality Competition TV shows on Food Network are not safe from this. On Chopped, the contestants were given rattlesnake meat in the appetizer round. On the Confession Cam, one of the contestants outright says "rattlesnakes are poisonous if not cooked well." Surprisingly, the judges don't say much about rattlesnake or about snake anatomy, or the fact that rattlesnake meat is unlikely to contain venom in the first place outside of the head, and even if there is some left it's not harmful if ingested since venom works by being injected directly into the bloodstream and a person's digestive acids will break it down well before it ever reaches it.
- Somewhat justified. Most rattlesnake meat comes from rattlesnake roundups, which frequently use gassing (pouring gasoline down the hole of the snake's den) in order to collect snakes. Gasoline toxins, therefore, are still present in the meat, along with a great deal of stress hormones. These do not cook out.
- In the A.N.T. Farm episode "animal husbANTry", Olive claims that alligators feed exclusively on live prey. Crocodilians can and definitely will scavenge (although, knowing Olive, this may have been intentional malice on her part).
- A video bonus question on Cash Cab identified a reticulated python as an anaconda.
- The Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Shadow" features a blinking cobra. Well, technically it's a giant cobra-demon with arms, but it started off a cobra.
- The Shel Silverstein song "I'm Being Swallowed by a Boa Constrictor" is an example because boa constrictors kill their prey before eating them and swallow their prey head first. The snake in the poem swallows its prey feet-first. This may just be Artistic License, as the poem would be much shorter the other way, and owners will sometimes tell stories about how their snakes can sometimes get it backwards.
- This trope pervades the Super Mario Bros. franchise.
- In Super Mario Bros. 2, Koopa shells can be pulled out of the ground and used to topple enemies. However, at no point are actual Koopa Troopas of any kind ever seen as enemies—it's possible that Mario and friends are actually pulling up part of a deceased and buried Koopa Troopa to throw at everyone else.
- In Super Mario World and Yoshi's Island, shell-less Koopas resemble little shirtless humans.
- The game Pocket Frogs for the iPad for some reason had the title frogs hatch from their eggs as miniaturized adult frogs instead of tadpoles (they hatch by popping open their eggshells as if it were a bubble). That's a bit improbable, since very few frogs do so (notably the coquí of Puerto Rico). Worse, though, are the eggs themselves. The eggs' appearance is correct, with their shells being made from jelly with a little black dot inside representing the developing embryo. The problem is that such eggs have to be laid in water otherwise the egg will dry out and die, and the frog nursery doesn't have water...
- EverQuest ended up creating a rather humorous example that reached memetic levels among the player community. Snakes that could kick you. Due to the game mechanics and the class systems, all NPCs in the game are associated with a specific class to simplify their combat abilities. Most NPCs and creatures who just straight up attack you and don't cast spells are the Warrior class, who gain the Kick ability very early on. This lead to funny instances where animals who don't even have legs, like snakes and fish, to kick you every now and then in between their bite attacks. It wasn't long before the kicking issue was fixed, but the developers would bring it back every now and then as a gag. The Shadows of Luclin expansion introduced a completely reworked interface and new player models. As part of the package, every time you zoned over from one area to another, you'd see random messages on the loading screen. One of them was "Teaching snakes to kick."
- The alligators from Where's My Water? not only have crocodile-like mouths but also curling tails similar to those of chameleons.
- Rattly from Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest is labeled as a rattlesnake, but he lacks the rattle at the end of his tail which gives the species their namesake.
- In Kit N Kay Boodle, most of the biological oddities can be put down to creative license. However, Skamm (the current antagonist) and his male love interest are supposed to be ridgetail monitors. The external genitals and hair are par for the course in a furry comic, but they also have external ears. Combine this with the fact that Skamm's a lawyer and it's impossible to think of him as being anything other than a weasel.
- In the Franklin movie, Franklin and the Green Knight, Mrs. Turtle was shown pregnant, rather than Harriet hatching from an egg. Forgivable, however, in that the movie is meant to teach small children about dealing with a new sibling, which might have gotten somewhat lost in a more accurate depiction of turtle biology.
- An insult in Chinese is to call someone "an egg who doesn't know his father" or "a turtle egg". This is biologically accurate in that turtles never see their fathers (nor their mothers either), only dubious in using an animal analogy for a human value judgment.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons of the Eighties and Nineties the Ninja Turtles were often called amphibians (even by themselves). A tagline for one of the movies also called them "America's favorite amphibians." Turtles are reptiles, of course.
- One episode even used "We're amphibians, so we can breathe underwater," as a plot point, which is double-wrong - most amphibians can breathe underwater through their skin, but not all of them.
- On the other hand, developing the ability to breathe underwater would one of the milder examples of Artistic License – Biology taken during their Superhero Origin Story.
- Krypto the Superdog: Lex Luthor's pet Iguana and Harmless Villain Ignatius often gets himself into trouble using the Phlebotinum or technology of the week to catch an elusive bug or make them bigger, or in another episode, using a time machine to go to the past and try to eat a dinosaur egg. In reality iguanas are complete herbivores, as any protein is harmful to their health. Although they may accidentally eat a bug or two in the wild, they never actively hunt for anything other than leafy greens, fruits, or vegetables.
- Averted in Jackie Chan Adventures in the episode "Snake Hunt" when a cameraman blinds a giant snake by shining the light on his camera in its eyes, commenting on it by saying "Hello! I'm blinding it; snakes don't have eyelids!"
- Played with in an episode of Animaniacs, where a chameleon is subjected to multiple rapid background changes, changing his own colour and pattern to match. Becomes a Crowning Moment of Funny when the poor lizard is given a plaid background, and loudly refuses to match it.
- Shouldn't Baby Kermit on Muppet Babies be a tadpole? Oddly enough, his nephew Robin is actually portrayed as (a talking) one.
- One episode of Justice League had The Flash attempt to stop the Heart of Darkness, a purple crystal that enclosed the vengeful spirits of an evil ancient race of snake people called the Ophidians who attempted to destroy humanity by possessing anyone who touched it. Also counts as Dark is Evil as the Ophidians worshiped the moon and preferred the night over the light, which transfers over to the spirits' possession being broken through intense light and main attempt to destroy humanity by destroying the sun. Of course any herpetologist will tell you that since snakes are cold-blooded, they need warm environments to increase their metabolism as they can't regulate their own body heat. Cold environments like the sunless night would make them more sluggish.
- Static Shock once fought several unnamed snake-bangbabies at the beginning of the episode "Junior." They appeared as being cobras with snake arms and rattlesnake tails. One of them tries to attack him from behind, but gives himself away through his rattle. In Real Life, rattlesnakes only use their rattles as a defense mechanism by warding off potential predators. Similar to Roar Before Beating.
- In the Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers episode "Kiwi's Big Adventure", a crocodile gets its jaws tied shut and frees itself... by opening its jaws. There is a reason why crocodilians are rendered helpless when their mouths are tied (or taped) shut: the muscles that open their jaws are much weaker and smaller than the ones that close them.
- In House of Mouse, Mama Turtle and Baby Shelby have the "shell as clothing" variant, being able to remove their shells quite easily. Baby Shelby especially ditches his shell frequently to run away from Donald Duck, which inevitably gets him in trouble with Mama Turtle for letting her baby Shelby run around without his shell on.
- One episode of the 2006 edutainment series I'm An Animal had a crocodile with a bizarre dragon-like diamond shape at the end of its tail, as well as an alligator-like overbite.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Gummy, Pinkie Pie's pet alligator, is depicted with a snout more similar to that of a crocodile and a forked tongue akin to monitor lizards. And then there's the fact that he's toothless. "Not Asking for Trouble" also showed he is uneffected by cold weather despite being an alligator and thus ectothermic, which makes all the more egregious when previous episode "Tanks For the Memories" accurately showed a cold-blooded reptile becoming dormant when temperatures drop. Of course, Gummy doesn't seem to be any more normal than his owner is.
- Averted in an episode of Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! when one of the clues Velma used to expose the villain posing as Sobek was that the true Sobek has the head of a crocodile and therefore the lower teeth should be visible when his mouth is closed, but the fake Sobek had an overbite as the villain instead used the head of an alligator from a museum exhibit.
- The Lion Guard:
- Recurring cobra character Ushari is at first depicted without external hood markings, but in an episode where his species is identified as an Egyptian cobra (Naja haje), he is suddenly depicted with the hood markings of an Indian cobra (Naja naja). When he bites Bunga, Ono recommends sucking the venom out, an antiquated, useless, and even potentially dangerous treatment for snakebite (although that one could be chalked off as Ono's own mistakes: those are talking animalss in a human-less, time-unspecified environment, so they might not know it's useless. In another episode, Ushari is shown constricting Bunga to restrain him. Very few venomous snakes do this and cobras are not one of them.
- Some of the crocodiles, most notably Makuu, are portrayed having only their upper teeth show when they close their mouths as if they are alligators. It gets jarring in that a few others, Pua in particular, are correctly shown with interlocking teeth.
- "The Rise of Scar" introduces a group of skinks which do not resemble any known African species. Mainly because their colors and patterns are much too stylized.
- Zig-zagged in "The Bite of Kenge". While they got it right that monitor lizards possess venom, the venom in that episode is portrayed as simply causing temporary paralysis as opposed to inserting anticoagulants like in reality. Though that could have been deliberate to make the show kid-friendly.
- Phineas and Ferb:
- Alligators are drawn as more closely resembling crocodiles (i.e. V-shaped snouts, lower teeth visible when mouth is closed). "Druselsteinoween" had a gator with a more correctly shaped snout, but unfortunately still has interlocking teeth. The intro of "OWCA Files", however, briefly showed gators with proper overbites, but the ones that appear later on are given crocodile-like mouths.
- "Phineas and Ferb Save Summer" has a cave salamander that is colored more like a surface-world salamander and has fish-like gills. Real cave salamanders are usually a pale-pink and have feather-like gills not unlike those of a young salamander or an axolotl. Although they receive credit for pointing out the features real-life cave salamanders have, namely external gills and lack of eyes.
- The Simpsons:
Bart: Hey, Lis, you want to touch Strangles? He's not slimy at all. He's scaly.
- "Bart vs. Australia" had American bullfrogs become a pest to Australia by devouring corn crops, despite bullfrogs being carnivores. note .
- Alligators, namely Captain Jack from "Kill the Alligator and Run", are drawn with the lower teeth sticking out the sides of their mouths. An alligator's lower teeth fits underneath the upper jaw giving it an overbite. They are also colored mostly green or yellow, which alligators don't come in.
- In "Dude, Where's My Ranch?", Lucas stops Lisa from stepping on a rattlesnake egg. Rattlesnakes are live-bearers.
- Lampshaded in "Stop! Or My Dog will Shoot!" when Bart dares Lisa to touch his new pet python Strangles.
Lisa: (touches Strangles) Eww! He is slimy!
Bart: That's because I soaked him in slime!
- One episode of T.U.F.F. Puppy has The Chameleon trying to get rid of the cold winter by raising the temperature until it reaches 151 degrees, which will fry everyone but him because he's a "cold-blooded lizard". In reality, that extreme heat will kill him faster than a warm-blooded animal since he cannot release body heat by himself.
- There is an Urban Legend wherein a woman keeps waking up to discover her husband's pet python is stretching itself out alongside her in bed. She's also concerned because it was refusing to eat. She calls a herpetologist to ask about the behavior, and he tells her, "Get out of the house now!": The python, he tells her, was measuring her up in preparation to eat her. In reality no snake (or, for that matter, no predator at all) would ever waste valuable time or the element of surprise in trying to "measure" their prey. They'll figure that out when they actually get down to the eating part. If a python or other snake refuses to eat, take it to the vet or rehome it at once. Self-starvation is their method of suicide.
- It should also be worth saying that, since snakes (and, by that extension, other reptiles), are cold blooded and can't really make too much their own body heat, warmth attracts them, which makes the legend all the more ridiculous.
- Sadly, most wildlife-rehabilitation facilities have had to treat turtles with cracked shells, whom some idiot tried to remove from their "little house" in ignorance of the fact that the shell is part of the animal's skeleton. A case of Television Is Trying to Kill Turtles in action.
- One Not Always Right tidbit had a man in a petshop try to have a staring contest with one of the pythons for ten minutes before the owner had to remind him that snakes can't blink.
- The idea that snakes somehow possess a hypnotic gaze probably stems from a few things. The first is that snakes lack eyelids, so their unblinking stares can be kind of creepy to humans. The second comes from stories of people who witness small animals sitting very still when snakes are nearby. This is standard prey behavior with just about any possible threat, freezing up so that predators who aren't already aware of them might not notice (if that doesn't work, run). This sort of behavior may be partly responsible for the myth of the Gorgon Medusa. And while we're on the subject, snake charmers don't really charm snakes with music (since snakes don't hear things the same way we do), the snake is just following the motion of the charmer's flute and hands. In effect, the snake charmer is hypnotising the snake.
- Non-venomous snakes often have some very nasty bacteria living in their mouths. It is not the same as being venomous, but the infections caused by these bacteria can still potentially be life threatening. On a related note, many functionally non-venomous snakes still retain tiny amounts of toxin from likely venomous ancestors.
- Many people will see a small tortoise minding its business and assume it's stranded on land, then toss it in the nearest body of water thinking it'll swim away, when in actuality the poor thing will drown since most tortoises can't swim. Here's a hint: if you see an animal not in any apparent danger, leave it alone.