Instinctive recognition patterns tend to go for some salient tracts (teeth, for example, or big size, or speed) and not for for an accurate description of the main target of these patterns.
There have been some interesting experiments with birds (I forgot what kind) along these lines. If (that kind of) birds have an egg roll out of their nest, they of course notice that and roll it back in. So researchers have attempted substituting this egg with a fake one, or presenting the birds with both a fake egg and the real one, and see how the birds react.
And it turns out that these birds just go for the biggest, most brightly colored egg-shaped object (there was also something about the patterns painted on the eggs, I think, but I forgot). If you present them a normal egg and some ridiculously huge, ridiculously bright fake one that no female of their species might possibly have laid, they will bring back the second one and let the first one alone.
Same thing here, I think. We did not evolve the ability to recognize and fear lions. We evolved the ability to recognize and fear some salient traits that lions have, and that other beings (like sharks) perhaps have in even greater measure.
: Ninja'd. A lot. At least I have the bird example...
edited 24th May '11 1:57:44 AM by Carciofus