Imagine you're an animal attending your evolutionary family reunion (just pretend that's a thing for the sake of this article intro, OK?). You might be surprised to find out how remarkably similar it is to your last family reunion: You spend the day trying to avoid "that guy" that no one wants to admit you really are related to, while the rest of your relatives randomly eat, fight or hump each other.
Here are five (more) of those "that guy" relations in the animal kingdom that prove evolution just likes to mess with us.
5Dolphins and Hippos
The cetaceans (whales and dolphins) are some of the most beloved and respected animals in the world. Whales are the gentle giants of the sea, while dolphins are the fun-loving clowns who show up in a lot of female tattoos, despite the fact that they maybe also are serial killers.
Now we all know that these regal creatures are mammals, so they're not as related to fish as you might otherwise think. But it would be safe to assume that their closest relatives would have to be 1) aquatic and 2) not huge lazy fatasses, right?
Closest Living Relatives: Hippopotamuses
We really hope this isn't some sort of hipporgy.
Well, that first assumption was semi-right, but we were way off the mark on that "huge lazy fatass" part. Just don't tell them that to their faces.
According to recent evidence, whales and hippos probably share the same great-great-great- (ad infinitum) grandpappy that lived about 50 million years ago. This ancestor split into two groups: the cetaceans and the anthracotheres. Believe it or not, whales and dolphins used to walk on land and were semi-aquatic, like crocodiles and otters. Here's a bad drawing of an Ambulocetus, an early whale ancestor:
It turns out the distant past was kind of a huge nerd.
Now, here's an early anthracothere:
Well, Danny DeVito makes a lot more evolutionary sense now.
It's sort of like a hippo that tried one of those new fad diets and got even dumber as a result of the lack of nutrients. Anyway, over time the cetaceans became more and more aquatic, until they eventually abandoned the land altogether. Meanwhile, the anthracotheres died out (presumably slowly and lazily), leaving only one descendant: the hippo.
In fact, scientists have argued that dolphins and whales should be combined into the order Artiodactyla, which contains not only hippos, but also deer, camels, cows, pigs and giraffes. Yet, if you came across a whale humping a camel, you'd think it was weird.
But hey, we're not here to judge.