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Informed Species

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The Beagle Boys, and real beagles...
not seeing it.

"And the only thing that makes him a cricket is because we call him one."
Animator Ward Kimball on the character design of Jiminy Cricket

Sometimes, whether due to a specific visual style or use of anthropomorphism, a character who belongs to a clearly-identified Real Life species ends up looking nothing like what said species actually does.

Some examples are understandable and forgivable, especially if they are also an example of Seldom-Seen Species, but for the most part Tropes Are Tools and so is making a character look less like their real world species counterpart due to The Law of Conservation of Detail, being able to tell a story easier (as Most Writers Are Human) and sometimes simply because it looks cool and/or fun. See also Viewer Species Confusion for a subtrope based on the audience reaction to a creature, and I Am Not Weasel for in-universe reactions.

This is related to the Cartoon Creature (whose actual species is entirely ambiguous), and Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit" (which is about the name of their species, and not the species itself).


Many older examples of Seldom-Seen Species look and act very little (or nothing) like their Real Life equivalents.

NOTE: This trope is NOT "animal has qualities that differ from their real counterparts"note , this trope is "animal mainly does not look like their general species". As rule of thumb, ask yourself if you could recognize the animal's correct species without being told. If not, then this is the correct trope. Also, keep MST3K Mantra in mind and only point out details the general audience would notice, not minor ones only zoologists would care about.


Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • The tanukis in Animal Land look less like real life tanukis and more like small humans in bear-like costumes.
  • One episode of Bumpety Boo involved a Killer Gorilla, which looked little like a gorilla and resembled a Bigfoot instead.
  • In NEEDLESS, Miu's "teddy bear" is actually a rabbit, except it looks like a teddy bear, not a rabbit. Even the characters are like "That's a RABBIT???" upon finding out.
  • The titular Pikaia in Pikaia, rendered as a Pokemon-esque Ridiculously Cute Critter rather than the worm-like creature it actually is. Which is ultimately pointed out by the show itself.
  • Plue from Rave Master is supposedly a dog. Despite not having any ears, having a drill as a nose, loves lollipop candies, can walk on two legs, deflating when exposed to hot water, and generally looking for all the world like a tiny snowman, Plue is a dog. Elie thought Plue is an insect instead.
  • The cats from "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1971)" don't really look like cats, they look more like little bears with whiskers that look like they might have been designed by Dr. Seuss.
  • Ringing Bell actually invokes this: when Chirin (a male sheep) is fully-grown, he looks very little like a normal ram. Not only is he lithe and lanky rather than stocky, but his horns point forward rather than curling back. He looks much more like some kind of goat or antelope than a sheep. Given that the point of the film is that Chirin isn't a sheep anymore after being twisted by hatred, this is pretty intentional.
  • Ichigo from Tokyo Mew Mew is supposed to have the DNA of an Iriomote Wildcat. Despite this, she looks and acts like a domestic cat. Her cat form also looks like a normal housecat.
  • Mughi, Yuri and Kei’s pet from Dirty Pair is meant to be a giant genetically engineered cat, but he more closely resembles some kind of mixed breed of dog, given the shape of his head and snout, the only cat like things about him are his ears and claws. The fact that he acts like a dog doesn't help.
  • Tippy from Is the Order a Rabbit? is supposed to be an Angora rabbit, but her ears look more like a cat's ears than a rabbit's, being very short and pointy. It's especially noticeable since the other two rabbit mascots, Anko and Wild Geese, look much more like actual rabbits than Tippy does.
  • The title character's airplane in Porco Rosso qualifies as a mechanical example. It's identified as a Savoia S.21, but looks nothing like the real airplane by that name.
  • Yans and Gans of Meat Or Die are said to be dinosaurs, but come out looking like vaguely reptilian vinyl toys.

  • The Carta Marina, a decorative sea map famous for the immense variety of sea monsters it depicts, includes a number of creatures that are meant to be representations of real animals, but don't really read as such to modern eyes. In addition to the stylized, dragon-like "whales", there is also a "sea-hog" that was probably based on a description of a walrus, and a "marine unicorn" most likely inspired by accounts of a narwhal.

    Asian Animation 
  • William from Baby Shark's Big Show! is meant to be a pilot fish, but has an orange color scheme that more resembles a goldfish.
  • The fireball aliens from the Motu Patlu episode "Fire Ball Aliens" are an interesting variation. While they do have enough features to make them recognizable as fireballs, literally the only indication that they're aliens at all is how they're referred to as such in the title and in the episode itself; they are never stated to come from another planet, don't own any spacecraft for travelling, or anything like that.
  • Pakdam Pakdai features a bulldog named Rox who looks less like a bulldog and more like a Great Dane.


    Eastern European Animation 
  • You wouldn't know the titular protagonists of Kit And Kate are meant to be cats unless you were told so. They look more like blue alien frog creatures. The other animals are more recognizable though.

    Fan Works 
  • The picture of Undertow, the Pristichampsus in Nathanoraptor's Ice Age 5 fanfic, on the author's deviantART page, reveals he looks more like a featherless Velociraptor than a Pristichampsus, or even anything vaguely crocodilian.
  • Narf the Mouse from Zany To The Max. He only looks somewhat like a mouse. In fact, he doesn't look at all like a mouse except for his ears, tail, and buck teeth! He doesn't even have visible arms!

  • The eponymous Arthur of the picture books and later animated TV series is billed as an aardvark. In the earliest books there is some trace of a resemblance, and the elongated nose is actually relevant to the plot (though it resembles that of an anteater's more than an aardvark's.) Later in the series, you wouldn't know unless you were told.
  • Lowly from Richard Scarry's works is supposed to be a worm, but he looks more like a snake.
  • The illustrations of Roo in the original Winnie-the-Pooh books look more like a cat than a joey. Averted with Disney's Roo.
  • This is a major plot point in A Dog's Way Home. Bella is a nondescript mutt but is repeatedly referred to as most likely being a mastiff or Rottweiler mix. A man at the local shelter, however, believes her to be a pit bull. Though various characters (including his co-workers) try to argue against this, it still causes trouble for Bella because her county has strict BSL laws. Bella is almost euthanized several times because she's erroneously dubbed a pit bull. As a result, Bella's owner sends her into foster care out of town until he can move out. Bella doesn't understand this and believes Lucas abandoned her. The day before he's set to come back for Bella, she runs away trying to get to him herself.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Binyah Binyah Polliwog from Gullah Gullah Island looks more like an adult frog that still has yet to lose its tail than a polliwog.
  • Professor Bobo in Mystery Science Theater 3000 is stated to be a highly-evolved gorilla, but he really looks like a chimpanzee.
  • In Power Rangers, Animal Mecha often don't look much like the animal they're supposed to be. However, sometimes, the zord's name was changed from Super Sentai, where it resembles the animal it was originally named for. The second season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers had this issue when it had to rename the Yellow and Blue Rangers' Thunderzords to Griffin and Unicorn, when they were originally a Kirin and a Pegasus in Gosei Sentai Dairanger. Power Rangers RPM also had it bad when it took Birca (an orca), Gunpherd (a German Shepherd), and Toripter (a rooster) from Engine Sentai Goonger and made them into the Tail Spinner (shark?), Wolf Cruiser, and Falcon Chopper Zords.
  • The Cat from Red Dwarf looks like a human, with absolutely no visual clues as to his real species apart from a pair of fangs. However, the Cat is actually stated to be a creature evolved from the spectacularly inbred descendants of Lister's pet cat.

  • Dooly the Little Dinosaur:
    • Many sources claim Dooly is a Ceratosaurus. While he is vaguely a bipedal dinosaur with horn on his nose, his resemblance to a ceratosaur is zilch.
    • Ddochi is supposed to be an ostrich, but she looks more like some kind of white humanoid with bird-feet and a feather tail.
    • One episode of the 2008 series had an orangutan which looked more like a gorilla with an orange mane.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Lampshaded in Bloom County that eventually Opus looked more like a puffin than a penguin.
  • Foxtrot: Quincy is supposed to be an iguana, but he looks more like a frog with a long tail. He also has a row of circular plates along his back, rather than spines like a real iguana.
  • Garfield: Jim Davis declared Odie to be a beagle, but is even less similar to it than Snoopy (in the live-action movies he's a dachshund; in this strip, Garfield declares he's a "purebred clown").
  • Krazy Kat is not readily identifiable as a cat. (S)he looks somewhat like Yakko, Wakko, and Dot from Animaniacs, but with a flesh-colored face and pink nose.
  • Mooch the cat from Mutts is not readily identifiable as a cat and looks rather like Yakko Warner from Animaniacs, except with smaller, more pointed ears, a bigger nose, and without the cheek tufts and tan colored pants. The resemblance would be even more noticeable if Mooch were drawn in the same style Yakko is drawn, or vice versa.
  • Peanuts
    • More of an informed breed, but Snoopy and his brothers (and sister) look nothing like real beagles. Notably Snoopy wasn't originally intended to be a beagle, and even denied being one in an early strip. In fact, the character was roughly based off of Charles Schulz's childhood dog, a Pointer named Spike who was "a mixed breed of some kind." Snoopy's black and white coloring seems to be more of that of a Pointer's or a Dalmatian's, although there are black and white beagles as well. Regardless of whether or not he resembles a real beagle, Snoopy is a perfect portrayal of the standard breed: smart, playful, affectionate, hard-headed at times with a stubborn and independent streak that real beagles are famously known for having.
    • Woodstock doesn’t even seem to resemble a bird, with his beak looking more like a big human nose due to the simplistic art style.
  • Winslow from Prickly City is supposed to be a coyote pup, but he looks more like a cross between a bobcat and a Cairn Terrier.
  • Pogo from Pogo looks nothing like a possum; he looks more like a monkey.
  • In Mother Goose and Grimm, while Grimm is clearly a dog, he doesn't really share much of resemblance with Bull Terriers, which he's stated to be. Combined with Art Evolution, in the earlier strips he actually did look a lot like the particular breed.

  • The University of Minnesota's mascot, Goldy Gopher doesn't look much like a gopher. Upon consultation the conclusion was he looks more like a chipmunk.
  • Given that seeing a lion in 18th-century Brazil was difficult, the ones made by local sculptor Aleijadinho looked like monkeys - most notably in his statue of Daniel in a series with The Bible's prophets (which also includes another example, the whale carved on Jonah's statue).
  • Sea-Monkeys. The cartoons on the packages look nothing like the brine shrimp they are in real life. They are not monkeys either. This is probably an intentional attempt to fool gullible kids into buying them—a kingdom of merpeople in your aquarium sounds cooler than a bunch of brine shrimp.
  • Because only the ivory made its way to Europe for a long time, walruses were initially depicted as elephants, and later as pig-fish hybrids.
  • In a real-life example, it's a known issue that many dogs in animal shelters are mislabeled. They don't give them DNA checks, so the people just check if they have enough characteristics of a certain type of dog and categorize them as such. Due to how dogs work, mixed breeds can look a variety of ways despite their heritage. This means that just about any dog could be called a "Lab mix" or "Pit Bull/Staffie mix" even if they contain very little or none of those breeds in them, and often times they don't truly resemble the breeds much either.
  • The Tottenham Hotspur logo doesn’t look much like a cockerel (rooster), looking more like a pigeon.
  • The titular mascot of the Filipino fast food restaurant chain, Jollibee, is stated to be a bee, but literally the only things that make him one are his antenna, wings and stripes on his abdomen. Overall, he has a very human-like appearance barely looking anything like the insect he is based on.

  • Baby Bop from Barney & Friends has been identified as a Triceratops, but other than having a head frill she barely resembles one at all, as she has mammalian ears and a face like a hippopotamus. Then again, this was done intentionally so that she could look appealing to children.
  • Dinosaurs:
    • Earl Sinclair is said to be a Megalosaurus, but looks nothing like the actual dinosaur.
    • Likewise, his wife Fran is supposed to be an Allosaurus. Allosaurus never had that Dilophosaurus-like crest on its head.
    • B. P. Richfield is meant to be a Triceratops, but has the spiky frill of a Styracosaurus.
  • It's a Big Big World: Snook is supposed to be a modern-day tree sloth, but he looks more like a prehistoric ground sloth instead.
  • The Muppets:
    • Pepe — if he didn't tell you he was a king prawn would you have any idea what he was? He's clearly some kind of crustacean, so...they got us to "within a subphylum", anyway.
    • Beauregard, who was based on Wendell Porcupine from Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas , by the time he appears in the movies and the TV series, doesn't look too much like a porcupine, with the rats convincing him that he was an honorary rat in the TV show (even though he doesn't resemble one).
    • Sam the Eagle, while clearly a bird, doesn't really look much like an American Bald Eagle as he has none of the standard markings and is blue.
    • Gonzo, whose species has been the subject of much guesswork due to his hooked nose/beak, started out evolving from Snarl Frackle in "The Great Santa Claus Caper". Kermit once mused that "he looked a little like a turkey, but not much" in The Muppet Movie. In The Great Muppet Caper, he's put in a crate with "whatever" marked on the side. In Muppets from Space, he is revealed to be an alien from a far away planet, and his alien relatives come to invite him back to his homeworld, and when he sees how he would be missing the other Muppets whom he considers his close friends and family, the aliens respect his choice to stay on Earth.
    • Kermit himself isn't particularly froglike in appearance. His snout is pointed and while his hands and feet could be called flippers, there's no webbing, so overall he looks more like a tailless lizard than anything else. Jim Henson had, in fact, been using the character design for years before identifying it as a frog.
  • Sesame Street:
    • An animated music video about animal families featured featured a chickadee as one of the featured animals, but the chickadee looked more like an Baltimore oriole (a bright orange bird) than an actual chickadee (actual chickadees have gray bodies, black heads, and white cheeks).
    • Rosita was meant to be a fruit bat but she looks more like a blue Elmo or a mutated flying squirrel than a bat. After 13 years they removed her wing flaps and retconned her into being a Monster. The in-series reason for this is that she 'lost' her wings while flying through a cave.
    • Although Big Bird's exact species is debatable depending on the source, he doesn't resemble many of the species he has been identified as. For example, some sources have identified him as a canary. To say nothing of his size, he doesn't really look like a canary at all apart from being bright yellow.
  • While none of the animal characters in Peter Jackson's raunchy Muppets parody Meet the Feebles look particularly close to their real species, most of them are at least recognizable to a point. The same cannot be said of drug lord Mr. Big. Word of God says he's a whale, but if so, he's a pretty weird-looking one, with skin that looks scaly and reptilian and huge sharp teeth.
  • In the British children's series In the Night Garden..., one of the main characters, Igglepiggle, is stated on the show's official website to be a teddy bear. He barely looks like one, though - apparently, blue humanoid things with bean-shaped heads are considered "teddy bears" in this show's universe.

    Tabletop Games 
  • For a while, the owlbear of Dungeons & Dragons, despite supposedly being a hybrid of bear and owl, had a lot of traits that looked like neither: a gigantic beak, a long thick tail, and an armored head. It looks much more like an old-school dinosaur covered in fur, or possibly a giant ground sloth. This owed to its original design being based less on owls or bears and more with a bootleg figure Gygax was using as a miniature. Later redesigns have tried to make it more like its inspirational critters.

  • Many animals in Transformers are informed species. Birds in general often fall victim to this, as do most cats. The toys of feline characters tend to fall into a very similar (but not actually resembling any actual cat) build. Often, this owes to the fact that they have to turn into a humanoid robot, but even then, there are some weird standouts.
    • Laserbeak and Buzzsaw are probably the first major examples: they're supposed to be condors, and Laserbeak's Japanese name is even Condor. But even allowing for the artistic license of being a robot that turns into a tape, their heads have what looks like a crest rather than rounding off, their wings are short and stubby rather than massive and square, their faces are streamlined rather than droopy, and their personalities are very aggressive rather than relatively docile scavengers, all of which suggest a small bird of prey, likely a falcon. It doesn't help that Laserbeak and Buzzsaw are consistently shown as relatively small Transformers, easily fitting on the resident Decepticon leader's arm or shoulder—condors are some of the largest flying birds and wouldn't easily pull off that kind of pose with a human.
    • Ravage is meant to be a jaguar, but is so stylized that it was half-jokingly debated for years in the fandom whether he was a dog instead. His face is rather long and thin, and his tail is short and stubby, neither of which are jaguar traits. This varies Depending on the Artist, though; later artists tend to make him more obviously feline.
    • In the Beast Wars toyline, Snarl (and his Japanese mold-mate Tasmania Kid) are stated to be Tasmanian devils. They really aren't; for one thing, Tasmanian devils are black with a white stripe down their fronts, but Snarl is light brown with a black stripe down his back. Snarl is also a lot chunkier and has a bushier tail than a Tasmanian devil.
    • The Beast Wars version of Iguanus is very clearly a frilled-neck lizard. The name is, admittedly, a reuse from a G1 character, who was kinda-sorta an iguana monster.
    • Cheetor's first toy is a lot stockier than an actual cheetah, which are known for being lithe and lightweight, making him look more like a leopard with cheetah spots. It's often theorized that it was intended as a generic big cat and the decision to make it a cheetah happened fairly late, a theory that is borne out by the fact that it got a recolor into Tigatron, a tiger, and looks a lot more natural that way. The cartoon redesigned it significantly to look more like a cheetah.
    • Dinobot's toy has a lot to be excused about it, being a Velociraptor toy in the post-Jurassic Park mid-90s (featherless, hands are wrong, way too big). What can't be easily excused is that he's incredibly chunky, with tiny arms, legs barely long enough to lift his belly off the ground, and gigantic hips, when Velociraptors were even then depicted as slim and slight with lanky limbs. He was redesigned somewhat in the cartoon, but even then, he's still a lot thicker than a real Velociraptor. If not for the sickle claw, you'd probably think T-rex or Allosaurus first. His Universe toy managed to fix this a fair bit by slimming out his proportions, though his design is still outdated.
    • Tarantulas's first toy is meant to be... well, a tarantula, but appears to be more of a generic spider. The most obvious part is the legs, which are very spindly, when tarantulas are known for their thick, bulky legs, the complete lack of any kind of fur, the weird clawed mouthparts that more invoke a solifugid, and the fact that he has nine eyes. Once again, the cartoon redesigned him to look more like a real tarantula, if you forgive the fact that he's bright purple and still has nine eyes. Blackarachnia, his repaint, is at least identifiable as a black widow spider, even though her legs are inexplicably orange.
    • Proving Mix-and-Match Critters can get this, too, Torca, and his repaint, Elephorpha, are meant to be half-orca, half-elephant. The orca part is definitely there; the elephant part, not so much. He does have tusks and leathery skin, but his posture is more like a big cat, his mouth looks more like a wolf, and his feet are three-toed claws rather than elephant feet. Even his ears are way off from elephant ears, and his skin is either metallic gold or bright blue. He looks more like some kind of fantasy monster, or possibly a case of Speculative Biology. Concept art has surfaced suggesting that his design may have originated from a different project.
    • Despite his name, the Beast Machines character Night Viper is very clearly a cobra.
    • In the Power Core Combiners line, Grimstone is called a Triceratops, but the spiky frill and very small brow horns make him look more like a Styracosaurus, or the later-discovered Regaliceratops. And that's not getting into one of his drones being labeled a Spinosaurus on the box, when it's very, very clearly a Dimetrodon.
    • The Arms Micron portion of Transformers: Prime could get pretty abstract, owing to how simple the toys are. Gabu, apparently a horseshoe crab, looks more like a pile of robot parts with a tail. Noji's meant to be a boar, but is mostly a gun barrel with arms and legs. And Bogu, a mole, would probably be more accurately be described as a spiky orange blob.
  • In BIONICLE's 2007 line, the Barraki have launchers used to fire squids that look more like lampreys than actual squids and are also stated to be vampiric like the latter.
    • Many of the early Rahi fell into this. The Muaka and Kane-Ra are a few parts away from being a Palette Swap, and are referred to as a tiger and a bull, respectively but only vaguely resemble either (being a giant mechanical creature with tank treads instead of back legs and no tails). The Kuma-Nui, made of parts from both, looks mostly like a much burlier Muaka with two treads and a tail made of rubber hose, and is said to be a rat. And then there's the Tarakava, which are stated to be lizards, but look more like a mix between a praying mantis and a Rock-Em Sock-Em Robot.
  • My Little Pony:
    • G2 bombed in most places, bar a few European countries, because of this. The toys no longer resembled ponies, they looked like ordinary horses. While there is a lot of overlap between the two due to being the same species, ponies are overall shorter and stockier than other horses.
    • G1 had "Dream Beauties" which were essentially a predecessor to G2. They didn't look like ponies, with the official consensus seeming to be that they were "teenage ponies". That didn't make much sense though, since most previous ponies were adults and ponies don't suddenly become long-legged during adolescence.
    • G3.5 ponies just look off. They don't really resemble anything, besides maybe some sort of dog-horse mix. Their proportions are completely wrong even for Super-Deformed ponies.
    • Just like the cartoon, G4 ponies less resemble horses and more resemble deer with manes or weird looking dogs or cats without paws, due to their short muzzles. Celestia and Luna resemble horses, though they're supposed to be tall ponies.
  • Chinasaurs, generic toy dinosaurs named for the only identifiable mark on them being the "Made in China" stamp, can form an entire spectrum of this ranging from "not entirely accurate but recognizable as the intended species" to "it’s labeled as a Dilophosaurus but it looks more like a Carnotaurus" to "this looks like it belongs in a collection of alien toys not dinosaur toys". Some of the more baffling cases found a new life as Dungeons & Dragons monsters (due to Gygax using them as miniatures), including the owlbear, bulette, and rust monster.

    Web Animation 
  • The Grim: The pilot episode, "Fox", has Gertrude Byrnes meet an animal that's supposed to be a fox. The thing is, said fox's appearance could make one think that it's a lemur at first glance.

  • Carson the Muskrat in Dork Tower. He looks more like Snoopy than like an actual muskrat. This is lampshaded in one strip where he goes as himself to a costume event and gets told "Worst muskrat costume ever!"
  • In Narbonic, none of Helen's gerbils look anything like real gerbils. Whether they look like in-universe gerbils that are not the creations of a Mad Scientist varies between strips.
  • Layla Flaafy from Sonichu looks absolutely nothing like the Pokémon Flaafy except possibly for her curly hair, instead just being a sort of generic furry. Word of God (well, word of troll) says that she was created by one of the author's internet girlfriends and it was his idea to make her a Flaafy despite not changing her design at all.
  • Chiro in The Fuzzy Princess is a bat, but she looks more like a flying cat.
  • In El Goonish Shive, Adrian Raven initially doubts Grace is part-squirrel because her part-squirrel form has a very humanoid face with non-squirrel-like teeth. He is convinced when he sees her full-squirrel form though.

    Web Original 
  • Dreamscape: In the flashback in "A Curse or a Blessing", Melinda's curse's second form is supposed to be a dog, but it looks like a pink serpentine creature with two canine-like heads with huge teeth.
    Dylan: Oh come on! Thats a dog in the loosest definition of the word!
  • DSBT InsaniT: Frog barely looks anything like a frog. He looks more like a gumdrop with webbed limbs.
  • Parodied in ASDF Movie, where some kind of sauropod calls itself a Stegosaurus.
  • Sherlock from Homestar Runner is said to be a mix between a cow and a helicopter, but he looks more like a jellyfish type thing.
  • The wolfiin of Wings are meant to be wolves, yet they look more like dogs or cats depending on the shot.


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