Image By Hans Hillewaert
The rock hyrax looks like a confused groundhog or a woodchuck who would chuck wood if it wasn't suffering from what appears to be the most uncomfortable case of hemorrhoids in the Animal Kingdom. When not busy looking confused about where its body parts are located in the fur covered pile of pudding attached to its head, it spends its time being absolutely freaking terrified.
Image By Derkarts
That's because the hyrax is the fat kid in nature's most terrifyingly bully filled high school: Africa. Its natural predators include leopards, Egyptian cobras, puff adders, wild dogs, eagles, and presumably the Queen from Aliens. The only reason it's not extinct is that look on its face up there. The hyrax is never not terrified. It's got three modes: eating, looking out for predators and being eaten by the most terrifying animals on the African continent.
Image By Arikk
Above: Nature's equivalent of bringing a Nerf gun to a Blitzkrieg.
What it actually is: The elephant's closest living relative
Image By nickandmel2006
The hyrax is actually the disappointing little broth of the only good reason to ever use the word "Majestic." While the hyrax wedged itself in the rocks and learned to be super scared of stuff, its cousin was chilling out on the savanna getting huge and learning to use its nose as a hand/squirt gun combination.
Even stranger, the hyrax isn't the goofiest looking dipshit in the elephant's royal family. That distinction would fall to the manatee, which you might know as "that morbidly obese, mentally handicapped seal at the zoo.
While they look like walruses, manatees evolved completely independent of other aquatic mammals. Some several million-odd years ago, a group of small, fat, Jamaican mammoths called Prorastomuses started spending too much time foraging in the water. A few million years later and they're bloated, bald and so slow they make the act of floating look exhausting.
So ... out ... of ... breath.
Image By Sarah Hartwell
Standing three-feet-tall, the great auk looked like an emperor penguin with a hangover. Like the penguin, they were large flightless birds with bright white bellies and black backs that only laid one egg a year. To see them in motion was to be absolutely freaking sure you were looking at a penguin. They swam like big fat torpedoes, and waddled around awkwardly like they were dragging around a stone that was tied to their dick. Like two brothers in the same crime family splitting up the block, the emperor penguins chose to live in the South Pole while the great auk ruled the Northern Hemisphere. That was the only really noticeable difference. Well, that and the beak.
While the emperor penguin's snout comes to a smooth point like it was designed to be dipped in ink and sign endorsement deals, the great auk's beak made it look like it had seen its share of bar fights.
Presumably because it was a little big uglier, we didn't feel so bad about wiping every single member of their species off the planet -- shooting the last pair in 1844. But, hey, at least their brothers live on in the south, fighting the good fight one precious egg at a time.
And, occasionally, having their lives narrated by Morgan Freeman.
What it actually is: Closer to just about any bird north of the equator
The only way they're related is that the word "penguin" comes from the French word for great auk, and was given to the Coke mascots by sailors who thought they were looking at a colony of great auks chilling in the Southern Hemisphere. But the name is nothing more than a a centuries-long case of mistaken identity, since the great auk is more like a mutated seagull than anything else.
We knew we recognized that goofy ass look from somewhere.
See, despite looking almost identical to one another, the penguin and the great auk aren't even remotely related. They started rocking the same colors, decided flying was overrated and that diving was where it was at all without passing so much as a single note or meaningful glance. They might as well have existed on opposite ends of the galaxy and they showed up to prom wearing the same freaking tuxedo.
And while we're not here to take sides, the penguin stole the auk's look, stole its name and then the auk mysteriously disappeared. We realize it's absurd to claim that the penguin had anything to do with its extinction, but it's not like the penguin didn't have a financial motive.
That's the North goddamn Pole! That should be a great auk.
The lesson, as always, is that when humanity gets involved, all things being equal -- the ugly guy gets screwed right in his stupid ugly face.
For the Cracked take on other animals, check out The 6 Most Unlikely Partners in the Animal Kingdom and The 9 Most Mind-blowing Disguises in the Animal Kingdom.