Episode 72 – West African Giraffe

“And today we are talking about one of the biggest animal celebrities. I’m a little star struck already.”

Striding across the blazing Serengeti, the towering, wiry frame of the giraffe moves with surprising grace as it searches-for food. As the tallest mammal in the world, the giraffe makes for an easy target for large African predators. This not-so-gentle giant must remain ever vigilant if it hopes to survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description

  • The WAG is a rare subspecies of giraffe that’s identified by its lighter brown spots.
  • Their signature, cartoon alien head bumps are called ossicones, which are separate from horns and antlers.
    • They start out as cartilage and then harden and calcify to become bone.
  • Every part of them is lanky. They have long tongues, necks, and legs with which they can reach tall trees to eat foliage.

WAGs can only be found in Niger, but they were once all over the savannah.

  • The population was brought back from near extinction through conservation but they remain vulnerable with around 600 left in the wild.
  • WAGs live in heards of around 15 members.

Measure Up

Height – 6 meters (19 feet) – How many rhabdomys lengths (a small african striped mouse) go into the height of a WAG? – Hint: There are about the same amount of calories in a mouse as there are in a McDonald’s chicken nugget. Answer: 15 mice

Weight – 1,300 kilos (2,866 pounds) – How many Montannah Kenneys (a climber that reached the summit of kilimanjaro) would go into the weight of a WAG, at her approximate weight (47 pounds) when she reached the summit? Hint: Kenney is from Austin, Texas and she broke the record of Floridian Roxy Getter as the youngest person to reach the summit. Answer: 61 Montannah Kenneys.

Fast Facts

  • They are the tallest land animal on earth, but they aren’t the heaviest. That goes to elephants.
  • The can sprint 35 mph over a short distance but they can jog at 10 mph for long distances.
  • They spread their legs to drink water because, as long as their necks are, they are too short to reach ground level.
  • They get most of their water from plants and only need to drink once every few days.
  • Once a giraffe stands up for the first time, they will spend most of their life standing even to sleep and give birth.
  • Calves are most vulnerable within the first few months to predation. Mothers will protect them with powerful kicks, but many are killed by african wild dogs, hyenas, leopards, and lions.
  • Male giraffes will fight with their ossicones but whipping their heads at other males. The force is strong enough to break bones.
  • Giraffes make typical bellows and bleats but they can also make sounds lower than a human ear can hear.

Episode 71 – Walrus: The Sabertooth Puppy-Whale

“And today we’re talking about a big blubbery boy with wonderful whiskers with which they wade around in the water.”

There may be no harsher environment in the world than arctic. The extreme cold makes it an inhospitable place for most plants and animals. But for a few unique species, it’s an ideal to place live, hunt, and lay around. To call this frozen wasteland home, you need to develop amazing ways to keep warm, and one blubbery behemoth has found the key to thriving in the Great White North. But defying your environment to survive against the odds is how some animal make it in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 70 – Mimic Octopus: The Mocking Mollusk

“And today we are talking about a slippery sucker pup that has more than 15 ways to get out of danger.”

Lots of animals pretend to be other animals. Hiding and visual deception have helped countless butterflies, snakes, and millipedes either eat or avoid being eaten by donning masks and acting their little hearts outs. But the mimic octopus takes things to a new level. The veritable Frank Caliendo of the animal kingdom, this cephalopod has a whole rolodex of species that it can imitate. But camouflage and mimicry are just some of the many tools the mimic octopus uses to survive here in LDT.

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Episode 69 – Black Kite: The Harbinger of Destruction

“And today we are talking about a bird that is a harbinger of doom and destruction. But more on that later.”

Fire is a blessing and a curse. It’s constructive potential is rivaled only by its destructive capabilities. It was once thought that humans were the only creature on earth to harness this powerful energy to aid in survival. But there’s something else out there that’s borrowing our techniques to gain a competitive edge in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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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!

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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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