Episode 68 – Honey Badger: The Badger Who Lived

“And today we’re talking about the John Wick of weasels and like John Wick, you just don’t want to get in it’s way. But more on that later.”

The plains of sub-Saharan Africa are a dangerous place for mid- to smallish-sized mammals. There are lots of predators that want to make a meal out of you and your posterity. For the honey badger, there is no middle ground—it’s all or nothing. Don’t let its dame fool you, the badger is always ready to put up its dukes and fight to the death with anything that rubs it the wrong way. To be this aggro, the honey badger needs to have some interesting tools in its survival kit that can only be described here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

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Episode 68 – Cassowary: World’s Deadliest Bird?

“…and today we’re talking about what is called the most dangerous bird in the world. But more on the truth of that later.”

We often think of birds as benign, graceful creatures, alighting on the forefingers of princesses and singing songs to one another as the sun crests the horizon. When in danger, these skittish creatures take to the air and find safety in the sky or even a tall tree. But not every bird is so gentle. And not every bird flees from a fight. One bird breaks the cultural standards of birdliness and kicks elegance to the curb. But strength and aggression is often a path to survival in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 67 – Tongue-Eating Louse: The Prometheus Peekaboo Parasite

“And today we’re talking about a crustacean whose name sounds like an old-timey insult. ‘Hey, get back here you tongue-eating louse and I’ll give you what for!’”

Have you ever loaded your family into a big RV and taken to the open road? One undersea crustacean does something similar with its family. Only instead of the open road it’s the open ocean, and instead of a large and luxurious Winnebago, it’s a northern red snapper. It’s a big ocean for a small arthropod and hitching a ride on a wayward fish can really help them get around. But here’s the catch: they have to do something that borders on the grotesque and oceanesque to fill their bellies during their nautical adventures. But sometimes survival requires a sea parasite to get gross and gauche in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Thanks to Oh No Lit Class for the use of the intro Joke grotesque and oceanesque of their mini show Study Breaks!

Measure Up

Length – 29 millimeters (1.1 in) – How many lice go into the maximum depth of the Gulf of California (3,000 meters (9,800 ft))? Hint: the Gulf of California has a rich ecosystem and includes the incredibly rare and critically endangered vaquita porpoise which is adorable and only about four feet long. Answer: 106,909 lice

 

Width – 14 mm (0.55 in) – How many lice widths go into the width of the widest human tongue 8.57 cm (3.37 in)? Hint: The Guinness Record for the widest tongue belongs to Byron Schlenker of Syracuse, NY. He actually beat his on record in 2014. His tongue apparently grew even wider. Answer: 6.1 lice

Major Fact

The life cycle of the TEL is a race to be queen.

  • Adolescents start out with androgynous until they attach to the gills of a fish.
  • Then they become males and start to make their way into the fish’s mouth.
  • More than one louse will usually hitch a ride on a single fish.
  • The first louse that makes its way to the tongue will become a female, then do something extremlely gross.

The female louse will attach to the back of the tongue with he back legs.

  • The lady louse will then dig into the arteries in the tongue draining it dry of it’s blood.
  • The tongue will then atrophy, rot, and fall off.
  • The louse will then do something that is unheard of among other parasites. It will fulfill the role of the fish’s tongue.
  • It attached it’s back legs to the remaining muscles of tongue stump and the fish is able to move it around like a prosthetic tongue.
  • The louse continues to survive off of blood and mucus.

At this point, it may not hurt the fish.

  • If one louse is in the fish, both the fish and the louse can remain healthy.
  • However, males often stick around in the gills and travel up to the female mouth louse to mate.
  • If two or more lice are in a fish, it may be underweight and malnourished.

We aren’t really sure what happens when the fish dies in the wild.

  • In captivity, the louse will detach but stay close to the fish head.
  • In the wild, we don’t know if they go after new hosts.

A mouth louse only goes after fish and doesn’t hurt humans unless you handle them, in which case, they might bite.

  • However, it does go after fish humans eat, including snapper.
  • A lawsuit in Puerto Rico centered around a customer of a supermarket chain who claimed to get sick after accidentally eating a tongue-eating louse after cooking and eating a fish that had the parasite. However, the suit was dropped when it was shown that louse wasn’t poisonous if ingested.
  • Isopod are sometimes eaten regularly is some cultures.

A photographer named Qing Lin captured a now famous photo that was a finalist for Wildlife Photographer of the Year in 2017. The photo depicts three clownfish and if you look closely, you can see that each one has a little with head with black beady eyes peeking out of their mouths.

Episode 66 – Shocking Pink Dragon Millipede: Seeing Double Dragon

“…and today we’re talking about an animal whose name is click bait and what they smell like will shock you! But more on that later.”

When traipsing along the Mekong in Southeast Asia, you may smell the delicious scent of almonds wafting on the stagnant, humid air. While this may seem like a decadent oasis in a dangerous jungle, use caution! That almond smell may be coming from a small but deadly arthropod on the shore. The dragon millipede is a tasty treat for the jungle’s many voracious predators. So, in order to survive, it needs to cook up a fragrance that will knock ‘em dead here in Life, Death and Taxonomy.

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Episode 65 – Taita African Caecilian: The Apoda Shuffle

“…And today we are talking about a slimy tube that has a vague resemblance to a nasty appendage that might shoot out of an alien at Sigourney Weaver. But more on that whenever you get a chance to look up a picture.”

Life in the mud isn’t glamorous, but, like Arnold’s character in Predator, it can make you incredibly elusive. One order of amphibians has a subterranean lifestyle that causes them to be so rarely seen, they can be difficult to study. However, researchers have unearthed a few of their secrets and what they found has made this small order of amphibia some of the strangest kids in class. But underground and offbeat are exactly the kind of creatures we’re after on Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 64 – Leatherback Sea Turtle: The Sea Tank

“…and today we’re talking about a huge reptile that has a Salt Life bumper sticker and really isn’t into the time honored reptilian tradition of basking in the sun.”

Just like little kids at the fair, we love turtles. They’re armored, they’re scaly, and they take life slowly. However, the leatherback sea turtle takes turtleness to a different level. Down below the photic zone, a reptilian tank the size of a volkswagen beetle flies through the water eating jellyfish along its path. Since other turtles wouldn’t be able to survive at these depths, the leatherback can’t let the pressure take any skin off its back here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

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Episode 63 – Spotted Hyena: The Queen of Crunch

“…and today we’re talking about a pupper who’s not a pupper at all. But more on that in like a minute.”

The top dog isn’t always an alpha male. In fact, it isn’t even always a dog. All kinds of animals survive by forming social bonds and working as a team, but sometimes survival requires a feminine touch, and sometimes that touch is actually a bone crushing bite. The predators that prowl the African Savannah are in for some tough competition, but the winners get more than a trophy. They get to continue on in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 62 – Irukandji Jellyfish: Tiny Deadly Squishy

“…And today we’re talking about a smol sea booger with a nasty sting. But more on that later.”

Australia is filled with lots of cute things, and also lots of deadly things. The irukandji jellyfish is that second part, but also a little bit of the first. At about the same size as a match head, these tiny terrors amble about around the waters of Western Australia. Anything or anyone unfortunate enough to brush up against this near-invisible squish bag will find themselves in a world of hurt at best, and a body bag at worst. So be careful in the water, because a cute little jellyfish just might take your Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 61 – Golden Eagle: The Aquila and the Bleat

“…And today we are talking about a bird with an impressive wingspan and brutal hunting tactics. I would make a joke, but frankly, I’m scared of it.”

A bird who’s at home in the skies needs a body built for aviation. That means a light frame, hollow bones, and a wingspan wide enough to generate lift. But when a delicate bird of flight is also a bird of prey, those slight features need to be augmented by an arsenal of deadly weapons. Even the largest raptors could use inventive tactics in order to take down large targets. But you know what they say, the bold and unorthodox bird gets the worm, especially when that worm is more than twice your size, in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 60 – Goby Fish: The Waterfall Wriggler

“And today we’re talking about a fish with a green fin, a bright personality, and a future with an upward trajectory, but more on that later.”

Beneath the sun soaked rivers of Hawaii, there dwells a fascinating fish with tenacious tendencies. After being born, the Stimpson’s Goby is swept out to sea, far from its ancestral home. But major changes to its body force it to return to the land of its forefathers to find the food it so desperately craves, and that means surmounting some huge Hawaiian obstacles. But the Goby fish shows us that we too can face our mountains here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

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