Episode 105 – Great White Pelican: Feeding Friends. See?

“… and today we’re talking about an animal that’s great and white. No, not that great white animal! More on that later.”

Food is limited and the flock is many. For most animals, seeking to feed yourself first and then resting to conserve energy, is the best way to survive. But without the aid of rigorous cost-benefit analysis, some animals see fit to cooperate with one another to find food. That can mean expending precious caloric resources to feed someone else. But why? For many animals, it’s worth it to walk the razor’s edge between cooperation and resource guarding. When food is hard to get on your own, it may be time to work together in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.\

Continue reading Episode 105 – Great White Pelican: Feeding Friends. See?

Episode 104 – Goliath Birdeater: Along Came a Spider

“…and today we’re talking about a spider that sat down beside her and tilted the bench under its immense weight, spilling curds and whey everywhere.”

Tarantulas are big. The Goliath Birdeater Tarantula is even bigger. But being big doesn’t mean you don’t have enemies and predators to deal with. So how do you handle them? Well, you could try and bite them with your venomous fangs, but you might run into logistical issues not having a neck and all. So you might need a trick up your sleeve for when things get hairy here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

Continue reading Episode 104 – Goliath Birdeater: Along Came a Spider

Episode 103 – Babirusa: Toothy Baby Ruthy

The jungles of Indonesia have provided several episodes of interesting animal info so far. The terrain seems to provide a smorgasbord of offbeat animals. But none may be as strange as a particular forest pig with an odd dental deviance that leaves all the interested researchers. Some adaptations have a clear purpose, giving an animal an advantage in daily life. However, some abilities or anatomical anomalies seem to only provide a disadvantage to an organism. But mystery is something that any intrepid animal enthusiast must embrace in the exploration of Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

“And today we’re talking about a big pig with interesting headgear, but more on that later.”

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new intro this week so that means we get to be introduced by an animal and Carlos has to guess what it is.

Body Length

  • 85–110 cm (33–43 in)
  • 43 inches
  • In Sulawesi, there are around 400 granite megaliths that were made by indigneous people starting as far back as 3000 B.C. How many Babirusa go into the largest of these megaliths?
  • Hint: The stone structures depict human forms, large pillars, or stone slates. Their purpose is unknown. 
  • Answer. 4 babirusa. The largest megaliths are 15 feet tall. 


  • 100 kg (220 lb)
  • Indonesia was once home to the world’s heaviest 10 year old. How many of one go into the other?
  • Hint: I said “was once” but don’t worry. He’s okay. In fact, Arya Permana 13 now and over 100 pounds lighter. He eats a diet of fish, vegetables and fruit and enjoys playing football (soccer) and badminton.
  • 1.9 babirusa. Arya Permana weighed 30 stone, or 420 pounds. 

Major Fact

  • Babirusa have lower canines that protrude to form large tusks, similar to those of warthogs.
  • However, warthog tusks are formed from the upper jaw and then curl up.
  • So what are the babirusa’s upper canines doing?
    • When most teeth are forming in the upper jaw, they have dreams of traveling south to bite, chew, and gnaw.
    • Not so with the Babirusa’s upper canines. 
    • They travel up through the jaw and emerge from the top of their snout. 
    • But they don’t stop there. They grow up and curve back toward the forehead.
    • According to recovered skulls, the tusks can grow so far as to impale the head of the animal, possibly killing it. 
  • So what are these dangerous face ornaments for?
    • The answer to that has eluded researchers.
    • Typically, tusks and horns are used for a variety of reasons.
      • Digging
      • Self-defense
      • Intraspecific fighting
      • Matting display
    • Unlike warthogs, female babirusas lack prominent tusks. 
      • Babirusas also don’t have rostral bones that allow them to dig with their snouts like other pigs.
      • Instead they live above ground and prefer shallow roots.
    • Prominent mammal expert, and my kind of guy, John MacKinnon submitted a paper in 1981, about the function on babirusa tusks. 
      • He says, the wear patterns and structure of the tusks suggests that the lower teeth are used offensively while the curved upper teeth are used for defense. 
      • A video by the Smithsonian channel contradicts that assertion.
      • They say that the tusks are brittle and break easily when they are smacked against things.
      • They also show footage of two males fighting by going up on their hind legs and boxing with their forelegs, keeping their snouts up to avoid contact.
    • The Smithsonian also reports that males with long tusks attract more mates.
    • The tusks never stop growing and long lived males usually have the longest tusks. 
    • Perhaps the fact that some males are able to keep brittle tusks for longer shows their survival prowess.
  • Maybe it’s a combination of the two. Perhaps males try to break other’s tusk through competition, and avoid damaging their own tusks.

Hey, LDT listeners. There are so many ways to listen to the show in 2020. You can learn about animals on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, IHeartRadio, and countless other apps and podcathers. However, as far as we can tell the best way we grow is when you share the show with friends and family! After that, reviews really help us grow. So if you don’t mind taking the time, we’d really appreciate a review on itunes or your favorite podcast app. Thanks for listening and engaging!

Episode 102 – Turritopsis Jellyfish: To Be Young Again

“And today we’re talking about a tiny little long-lived sea booger. But more on that later. The long lived stuff. Not the booger stuff.”


  • Like many sea creatures, the jellyfish is found all over the world’s oceans.
  • They prefer temperate to tropical regions. 
  • They are believed to have originated in the pacific but may have traveled all over the ocean in ballast water.
    • Ballast water is water that’s used to fill tanks in the hulls of ships to maintain balance, especially in high winds.
    • Tanks fill at one port and discharge at the second port.
    • Sometimes, animals find themselves in ballast water to be deposited somewhere else in the ocean.
  • The jellyfish is a bell shape and transparent except for their orange or red center bits.
  • It has short tentacles that range from 8 to 90 
Continue reading Episode 102 – Turritopsis Jellyfish: To Be Young Again

Episode 101: Treehopper – Leaping Bug Teens

“And today we’re talking about a tiny helicopter with some interesting upward momentum.”

Tiny insects are key menu items for a lot of creatures in the kingdom animalia. To be small and tasty is a recipe for doom if you don’t have some interesting survival tactics. Entire orders of insects start in vulnerable metamorphic stages called nymphs. There are so many, we’ve identified some nymphs having no knowledge of their adult stages. Some of these bug babies have developed a way to get around and avoid predation that’s a marvel of organic mechanics. But by the 101st episode, we’ve come to learn that  amazing avoidance abilities are often the key to Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Continue reading Episode 101: Treehopper – Leaping Bug Teens

Episode 100 – Potoo: A Funny Feathered Extravaganza

“…and today we are talking about an animal for the 100th time and we’re announcing the winner of the listener’s favorite part of the show vote!”

The official listener’s favorite part of the show is…. Measure Up! That’s right! You came out to the polls and let your voices be heard. With Twitter and Facebook polls combined, 65 percent voted for Measure Up as their favorite segment. I want to thank everyone who voted especially those came out to vote and ended up liking the FB page! But since it was such a close race, it’s clear that Critter Groups has it’s cult following, so it’s not going anywhere. 

Continue reading Episode 100 – Potoo: A Funny Feathered Extravaganza

Episode 99 – Pallas Cat: Mr. Whisples

And today we’re talking about a wide eyed and expressive cat! But more on that later!

They may look like your average domestic feline on the surface. But a closer look will reveal some odd features. Thick fur, short stubby ears, and rotund bodies, give away that this particular Himalayan cat isn’t your typical tabby. But there’s something else. Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but they seem so… expressive. Their relatable facial expressions have made them internet sensations, but there’s a reason humans might look into these big yellow eyes and find them relatable. But what makes their faces so intriguing? Find out in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Measure Up

Welcome to Measure Up, leading candidate for best part of the show, a title to be officially determined by you on December 3rd on Twitter and Facebook. This is the part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We have no new intros this week, so that means I get to play an animal sound and Carlos will guess what it is! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZdGXhH9aDsk

Body length

  • 46 to 65 cm (18 to 26 in)
  • 26 inches
  • How many pallas cats go into the highest altitude (7,200 ft) in Khojir National Park in Iran, which is part of the pallas cat’s range?
  • Hint: The park has a number of unique species of flora including the persion pistachio tree and the wild almond.
  • Answer: 3,323 cats


  • 2.5 to 4.5 kg (5.5 to 9.9 lb)
  • 9 pounds
  • The world record for the most garlic cloves eaten in one sitting was achieved by Deepak Sharma Bajagain in 2009 in Kathmandu. How many units of the total weight of the garlic he ate go into a pallas cat?
  • Hint: Garlic cloves can range from 4 to 45 grams, but the average is around 16 grams.
  • Answer: 7 (He ate 34 cloves)

Major Fact

  • The Pallas’ cat has a pair of eyes that are different from your cat at home. 
  • Instead of the characteristic slitted pupils, their pupils are round.
  • These large round eyes may be what people find so interesting about their funny facial expressions on the internet. 
  • But why do these cats deviate from the ocular norm?
  • Pupils come in a variety of shapes in the animal kingdom.
    • Goats have square pupils, Crocodiles and jagged slits, and cuttlefish have wave pupils. 
    • In all of these cases, the pupil functions to allow light to enter eyes in order to help creatures see.
    • Iris’s can make the pupils larger and smaller depending on the amount of light around you.
    • There is a lot of debate as to the advantage of different pupil shapes.
    • But one thing seems to be clear, it’s based on lifestyle more than taxonomy.
    • Animals all over the kingdom have slit pupils including reptiles, cats, canines, and even birds.
    • Same with round vision.
  • So why do most cats have vertical slit pupils?
    • Many of the animals with slit pupils are nocturnal or crepuscular.
    • They are mostly predators, which means they end up hunting in the light of dusk to the dark of night.
    • These extremely variable light conditions need extremely variable eyes.
    • One theory is that slit vision allows pupils to expand larger and shrink smaller than round pupils. 
    • However, little weirdos like the tarsier, which are tiny primates, shows that round pupils can shrink and grow to extremes. Plus, they are the only completely carnivorous primates. So they fit the slit pupil lifestyle.
    • Another possibility is the way slit eyes allow animals to see more color in low light. 
    • Predators often rely on color to contrast prey with its environment.
    • But why doesn’t the tarsier or the pallas cat need low light color?
  • Well, the tarsier has something that slit pupil animals don’t have. An arboreal lifestyle.
    • Most slit pupil animals are small or low to the ground. House cats and foxes have slits and they are ground hunters. 
    • Crocodiles hunt by peering over the surface of the water to the banks of rivers. 
    • I mentioned a bird before, but it’s a specific type of bird that has slits: skimmers, that fly along coastlines and waterways picking fish off the surface of the water.
    • Tarsiers hop from tree to tree collecting bugs and lizards. They need to see far, and it turns out that slit eyes aren’t great for long vision.
    • Cats with round pupils include cheetahs and leopards. Their larger and chase down or stalk prey they spot in the distance.
    • Pallas cats are the same size as house cats. But they hunt on mountains and on rocky terrain. They also spend most of their time hunting during the day.
    • All this to say, the pallas’ cat’s unique environment and lifestyle has given us a unique little predator with an adorable face.

Episode 98 – Narwhal: The Sea Unicorn

“And today we’re talking about a whale with a rostrum for adventure! But more on that later!”

Way high up in the frigid arctic waters swims what many would consider to be a mythical creature: a unicorn. No, not a white horse with a horn sticking out of its head, but a whale with a similar facial characteristic. But what is this horn used for? Fighting, hunting, swimming? You’ll just have to listen and find out here on Life Death and Taxonomy.

Continue reading Episode 98 – Narwhal: The Sea Unicorn

Episode 97 – Mary River Turtle: The Punk Rock Respirator

“And today we’re talking about a turtle that does what it wants because it’s punk rock.”

Turtles enjoy the aquatic lifestyle, eating algae, river plants, and fish. But, unlike those fish that are privileged with water-breathing gills, turtles must make trips to the surface to breathe. But one Australian turtle species with a punk rock style goes against the grain with its respiration. But to join this counter-cultural genre of gas exchange, it has to adopt a bizarre style of breathing. But sometimes an awkward adaptation is enough to give you an edge in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Continue reading Episode 97 – Mary River Turtle: The Punk Rock Respirator

Episode 96 – Cape Buffalo: Revenge on the Range

“And today we are talking about beefiest boys in the bovine brotherhood. But bore on that later.”

Clutching his rifle in his hand, veteran British big game hunter Owain Lewis made his way through the dense brush of Zimbabwe, carefully tracking an injured cape buffalo that had been shot three days earlier by an American visiting hunter who had failed to finish it off. With the task now falling to him and his hunting apprentice, it all comes down to a game of cat and mouse. But who’s the cat, and who’s the mouse? We’ll find out here in LDT.


  • The cape buffalo is a large thick bodied bovine with black curved horns.
  • Ther look like a typical brown cow with short hair.
  • The tops of their skulled are a thick keratin that curve downward and then back up into horns like a composite bow.
  • Their heads hang lower than their backs, unlike deer and horses which carrier there heads high.
  • Males have brown to black coats whereas females may have more red in their coats.
  • Cape buffalos are native to African forests and plains. The caffer subspecies is the most familiar and live on the savannah but there’s also forest subspecies like nanus which is smaller and has more reddish fur.

Measure Up

Welcome to Measure Up, leading candidate for best part of the show, a title to be officially determined by you on December 3rd on Twitter and Facebook. This is the part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words measure up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We have no new intros this week, so that means I get to play an animal sound and Carlos will guess what it is! Answer: Koala

Shoulder height

  • 1.0 to 1.7 m (3.3 to 5.6 ft)
  • 5.6 feet
  • How many buffalos go into the height of the tallest building in Africa (234 metres (770 ft)), which is the Leonardo in Sandton, South Africa?
  • Hint: The building was started in November 2015 and officially became the tallest building in April of this year.
  • Answer: 137.5


  • 500 to 1,000 kg (1,100 to 2,200 lb)
  • 2,200 lbs
  • How many of the world’s largest buffalo wing (1,037 lbs) in Madeira Beach, FL go into a cape buffalo?
  • Hint: It’s not a real chicken wing. It’s a drumstick replica that hangs from a photo op sign at a dockside Hooters. A sign warns patrons not to climb on the wing in nine languages.
  • Answer: 2.1

Fast facts

  • They have fairly typical herd hierarchies with dominant males controlling high-born females and their offspring.
  • The core herd is surrounded by subherds which are composed of high ranking males and females, subordinate males, and old or injured adults. 
  • Young males stay away from the dominant male.
  • Males spar in friendly competitions where they might rub their faces together and practice fighting.
  • Real fights are rare but violent and bloody. 
  • They are grazers and eat mostly grass in swamps and floodplains.
  • They drink water every day which puts them in danger of crocodile predation.
  • Other than crocodiles, they are sometimes hunted by lions, but they can defend themselves and aren’t easy prey.
  • They may even defend each other and present a united front against predators. 
  • However, lions can pick of injured, old, and sick animals. 
  • But they are also capable of engaging in the democratic process.
    • Female buffaloes move together.
    • This helps them avoid being picked off by predators, and it helps them keep calves safe.
    • But how do they decide where to go?
    • They will spend an hour, shuffling around, laying down, and standing back up again.
    • The direction they face when lying down is there vote.
    • Once they decide, they set out.
    • Early poles show that forest buffaloes point at Critter Groups while plains buffloes face snoutward at Measure Up.

Major Fact: Dangerous Hunting

  • Cape buffalo are a member of the big five: the five most dangerous animals to hunt on foot. 
    • Elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards, and cape buffalo
    • South African currency bills have pictures of these animals
  • But there are lots of large herbivores in Africa (hippo, wildebeest, elands, etc.), what makes cape buffalo so dangerous?
  • These mud boys take revenge.
  • Because they’re so big and muscular, one shot is not likely to take down one of these buffalo soldiers, regardless of the calibur (according to big game hunting experts). So it’s probably going to run away after getting hit.
  • Or so it wants you to think. It will remember the direction where it heard the shot and seemingly run off in a random direction.
  • What it’s actually doing is circling back around on its own trail to get sweet sweet revenge.
  • It makes its way behind the hunter and actually will wait behind a bush or a rock, using camouflage as best it can until the hunter is within range—then it charges. 
  • With an impenetrable shield on its head and sharp horns, a 2,000lb animal ambushing you at 35 mph from some nearby bushes is about all it takes to kill a human.
  • There’s a gripping story called “No One Survives a Cape Buffalo Attack” where some high schoolers managed to get the attention of a cape buffalo and one of them barely escaped with his life—he didn’t escape with his pants though.
  • Locals will say that the cape buffalo is responsible for the most human deaths of any animal in Africa. It’s almost certainly the animal responsible for the most hunter casualties.

**So watch your back, let your aim be true, and ba ram you like the cape buffalo in LDT.

Outro:Hey everyone. We need measure up intros! It really makes our day to see that we’ve received a new measure up from a fan of the show. Plus, you get to hear yourself on the airwaves, so to speak. Just say, sing, whisper, scream, or chitter the words “measure up” into your phone’s recording app and email that bad boy to ldtaxonoy@gmail.com. Also, don’t forget to vote for your favorite podcast segment on December 3rd. We’ll finally know whether the amazing and fun Critter Groups or the tedious and bad Measure Up is more beloved. You can vote on Facebook and/or Twitter. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next week!