Episode 116 – Argonaut: The Shelled Sailor

“And today we’re talking about a nautilus that isn’t actually a nautilus at all, but it is a Greek mythological hero. More on some of that later.”

You may have heard of Alexander the Great’s famous diving bell, but he was far from the first earthling to explore the depths with trapped air. Putzing around the ocean in a paper-thin shell, the argonaut has a sophisticatedly simple way of staying buoyant. But nothing gets this odd octopus down here in LDT.

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Episode 115 – Baikal Seal: The Seal with a Bubble Buddy

“And today we’re talking about a seal that can play the saxophone! But not really! But not much more on that later.”

Lake Baikal stretches across southern Siberia and it contains enough water to exceed all of the Great Lakes combined. It’s so large and deep, it’s said to be a leading candidate for the Earth’s next ocean, as it continues to grow. For now, it’s freshwater shores and depths are a home to a variety of plants and animals. But what happens when this immense inland sea freezes over with six feet of ice. The winter always requires the best of every species, but in this unique ecosystem, one marine mammal uses persistence and ingenuity to thrive in this otherwise inhospitable season. But that’s what it takes to survive freezing temperatures in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

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Episode 114 – Electric Eel: The Electric Puppet Master

“And today we’re talking about an electric water type Pokémon. But more on that later.”

If there’s anything we learned as kids, it’s stop drop and roll, don’t do drugs, and never mix electricity with water. But a certain stunning slippery serpentine creature didn’t get the memo. If you go swimming with the electric eel, you might find the results to be shocking. But when you’re a living battery, you just have to go where the current takes you here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 113 – Kinkajou: The Tree Sower

“And today we’re talking about a carnivore in name only. But more on that later.”

A seed falls from overhead into the soft soil beneath. It’s buried by a steady rain that lasts all afternoon. It’s growth will mark the beginning of a new tree in the rain forest. But where did that seed come from? A bird? A squirrel? A monkey? No, this one came from an unlikely gardener. A small arboreal carnivore. If her plant takes root and survives, it may one day tower over the other trees in the forest to grant shelter and safety to her descendants. But sometimes it takes an unlikely and unwitting hero to continue the cycle of Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 112 – Koala: The Pickiest Herbivore

“And today we’re talking about a cuddly looking lazy old bear that’s not a bear at all. But more on that later…”

Hoigh app in the eucalyptus trays of Ustreya, the koala beeah suffahs from a caise of mistaken oidentity. It’s not really even a beeah, it’s a mahsupial loike the kaingaroo. And it has has en unusual doiet that requires both a laizy disposition and a unique doigestive system to wek. But win yah faivrit food is en essintial oil, you do whaht it taikes to survoive heeah in Loife, Dith, and Taxonomee.

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Episode 111 – White Bellbird: The Avian Airhorn

“And today we’re talking about a bird with perfect projection for a passeriform. But more on that later…”

In the bird world, it takes a lot to attract a mate. Some go for brilliant colorful costumes, other’s choreograph a complex dance, and a select few even dabble in architecture. But why do any of that when you can go for SHEER VOLUME! There’s one little aviator that produces its own air raid siren to get attention from the ladies. When she stops for a closer look, she’s blasted with a wave of sound the likes of which are rare in nature. But sometimes the squeaky wheel gets the grease in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 110 – Ocean Sunfish: The Saucy Saucer

“And today we’re talking about fish head fish heads rolly polly fish heads. But more on that later…”

If you’re cruising around in temperate waters on a sunny day, don’t be surprised if you see a huge flat disk floating on the surface nearby. The Mola mola is a massive fish that sometimes needs a vacation to the surface to catch some rays. Not sting rays, of course, sun…rays. But why would a fish need sunshine? And why does this fish look like weird disembodied swimming head? It’s all part of the natural master plan here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

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Episode 109 – Pangolin: The Armored Carrier

“…and today we’re talking about an amazing armored animal! But more on that later.”

Speed and strength are popular in the animal kingdom. If danger comes my way, I’ll outrun it or fight it off. But some creatures go another route: head to tail armor. It’s a road less traveled among mammals, but some have thick hides or bony plates. However, only one mammal has taken a page out of the playbooks of reptiles and ancient Roman soldiers. But sometimes the most successful creatures are ones that borrow their style from others in Life, Death, and Taxonomy!

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 measure up intro this week! That means we get to hear from an animal, and Carlos has to guess what it is. Walrus!


  • 40–58 cm without the tail. Tail is 25-38 cm (9.8 – 15 in)
  • 46 cm (18.1 inches)
  • Pangolins like to hang out in bamboo forests. How many pangolins go into the height of the dragon bamboo, the tallest species of bamboo?
  • Hint: Dragon bamboo can have a diameter of up to 30 cm and it’s raised for its use in construction. Young shoots can be eaten.
  • Answer: 76 pangolins. Bamboo can grow to 35 m (114.8 feet)


  • 2 to 7 kilograms (4.4 to 15.4 lb)
  • 4 kilos (8.8 pounds)
  • Eddie Hall has the record for the heaviest deadlift. How many pangolins could Eddie lift?
  • Hint: Eddie used equipment like a deadlift suit and straps. There’s a separate record for lifts without any equipment. The record for women is held by Becca Swanson at 305 kg (672 lbs).
  • 125 pangolins. Eddie deadlifted 500 kg (1,102 lbs).

Major Fact

This is the story about how this animal’s amazing ability has led to the deaths of more than 600 people.

Pangolins are the world’s only scaled mammal.

  • Other mammals like rhinos and armadillos are armored with thick tough skin.
  • But the pangolin’s overlapping scales allow for more flexibility with its armor. 
  • When they are attacked by a predator, they curl into a ball that’s difficult for many foes to get through. 
  • However, they can also climb trees, wrap their armored tails around branches, and enjoy stealth checks without disadvantage.
  • Unfortunately, it also puts them in danger from a different predator.

Even though they are protected as critically endangered animals, they’re trafficked for consumption and because of their unique scales.

  • In China, people could face up to 10 years in prison for selling pangolins.
  • Despite this, that animal is sold for the use of its scales in traditional Chinese medical practices. 
  • Use of the scales is thought to remedy certain skin conditions, arthritis, and menstrual problems.
  • However, this widespread trafficking of pangolins may have contributed to the spreading of a disease to more than 30,000 people.

Recent research has found that the pangolins may be the link that spread the coronavirus to humans.

  • The corona virus is a type of virus that is common in mammals and birds.
  • It’s able to quickly mutat and it’s resistant to treatment and vaccines. 
  • Only a few types of coronavirus are able to infect people, but when they do, they can do a lot of damage. 
  • SARS was a recent example of the corona virus that spread to humans.
  • This coronavirus is called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
  • It’s infected 30,000 people and killed 600 so far. 
  • It’s believed to have originated in bats, but viruses that start in bats don’t usually spread to people. However, they can, if there’s a viable middle man. 
  • Chinese researchers believe that pangolins might be that middle man. 
  • Genome sequences of the virus in pangolins are a 99 percent match to the ones found in people.
  • However, the study has not been fully published to be scrutinized.
  • Because the animals that were in contact with humans were sold in a now closed illegal market, conclusive tests on those animals may be impossible. 
  • There’s still a lot of research to be done, but identifying the conclusive middleman could help avoid future outbreaks by cracking down on illegal trafficking.


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Episode 108 – Cicada: The Brooding Bug

“And today we’re talking about a periodic pest. But more of them later.”

All across the eastern U.S., a tenacious bug makes a long-awaited debut. Teeming just below the ground beneath your feet, millions of cicadas will wait years to emerge into the wild blue yonder. But why do they wait so long? And how do they know how long to wait? It’s all a game of numbers as this bug ensures its survival with the awesome power of math here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

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Episode 107: Disco Clam: Saturday Night Survivor

“…and today we’re returning to an old friend, but we’re going to hear the other side of the story.”

Today we’re returning to familiar territory. We’ve covered a brilliant and formidable predator that seems to be unstoppable because of its powerful punch. But there’s at least one item on its menu that’s not going into the ring unprepared. But when you’re going up against the tidal Tyson, you’re probably not going to win in a slug-fest. Instead, this clever clam turns to a brilliant tactic to outsmart the killer crustacean. But sometimes it pays to be bright in Life, Death, and Taxonomy!

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