Episode 296 – Burmese Python: Invasion of the Swamp Snatchers

“And today we’re talking about a reptile that’s coming in our state trying to take our rabbits! But more on that later…”

A “fish out of water” is someone who feels out of place because their surroundings are not suitable for their designed purpose. The Burmese python is out of place in Florida, but, unfortunately, it’s perfectly comfortable. Sometimes, an animal thrives in an environment that groans under the weight of its presence. But flourishing where you don’t belong is a great way to upset the balance of Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 295 – Timber Wolf: Another Day with Parasites

“…and today we’re talking about the most popular villain of nursery rhymes. But more on that later.”

Pack leader. Top dog. Dominant male. Head honcho. Alpha male. It’s a common misconception that wolves fight for dominance within their packs to see who becomes and stays the alpha wolf. But that doesn’t mean packs don’t have a leader, it’s just a lot simpler and less violent than you might think. Plus, it helps to get a secret boost from a microscopic friend to get the gumption you need to become top dog here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 294 – Cartwheel Spider: Whirly Bug Saw

“…and today we are talking about an animal whose mind commands the body to roll and it obeys. But more on that later.”

Members of the animal kingdom know that survival is the ability to swim in strange water–and sometimes that water is sand. Sand is coarse and rough and gets everywhere, but many animals, like the cartwheel spider, call it home. But what are they supposed to do when the fickle shifting of sand cuts off their best escape route? They can fight or they can flee but sometimes leaving is more like falling with style in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 293 – Blue-Ringed Octopus: Uh-Oh Spadeadly-Os

“…and today we’re talking about spicy calamari, but not really. More on that later.”

When you’re a teeny tiny cerulean cephalopod in a big bad cephalopod’s world, you need to have some tricks up all eight of your sleeves. The blue-ringed octopus’s diminutive form hides a deadly secret to deter predators that may want to snack on some calamari. But that’s what happens when you have a good head on all eight of your shoulders here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 292 – Purple Emperor: Purple Putrid Eater

“…and today we’re talking about something with a name that sounds like it could be a fish, bird, or flower. But more on that later…”

Butterflies are truly one of God’s gifts of nature. A creature that sports brilliant colors, flutters around gracefully, and dines only on the nectar provided by beautiful flowers. But there’s one butterfly that has more provocative tastes in cuisine. The Purple Emperor isn’t as devoted to its sweet tooth as its kin. With utter irony, the stink of death attracts a sheet of the insect’s indigo wings to descend. But the juxtaposition of beauty and decay is common in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 291 – Jack Jumper Ant: Be Nimble

“…and today we’re talking about an Olympic-level bug. But more on that later.”

“Jack, be nimble. Jack, be quick. Jack jumps over the candle stick.” Jumping over a whole candle stick might be an easy proposition for a young boy named Jack, but it’s a much different feat for a tiny ant. The Jack jumper is a bounding bug with a little more than a skip in its step to keep it away from predators and to bring it closer to prey. But if you can’t fly, you might as well jump to survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • Jack jumpers are black or blackish-red in color and can have yellow or orange legs. 
  • The antennae, tibiae, tarsi, and mandibles of the ant are also colored yellow or orange.
  • They have ashy gray pubescence “hair.”
  • Ants have long mandibles and spindly legs for ants.
  • They look pretty stinkin’ cool.

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.

Worker Length

  • 12 to 14 mm (0.47 to 0.55 in)
  • How many Jack jumper ants go into the highest elevation in FL?
  • Hint: Florida’s highest point is in Lakewood Park in Walton County. The point is called Britton Hill, and it’s located just south of the Alabama border.
  • 7,527 jack jumper ants. 345 feet above sea level.

Queen Length

  • 14 to 16 mm (0.55 to 0.63 in) long
  • How many Jack Jumper Ants go into the length of the Regina Trench?
  • Hint: The Regina Trench is the Canadian name for a German trench that they captured in the Battle of Somme in the first world war. It was the longest trench system in the Western Front.
  • 207,360 ants. The trench was 3 kilometers (1.8 miles)

Fast Facts about the Jack Jumper Ant

Myrmecia pilosula was formally described and named by British entomologist Frederick Smith in 1858. It is commonly found in Tasmania and southeast mainland Australia. Jack Jumpers prefer to live in open habitats such as bushland, woodlands, and dry open forests with gravel and sandy soil where they can nest.

Jack Jumper Predators and Prey

Jack jumper ants use barbless stingers to kill other insects but are also preyed upon by other ants and predatory invertebrates. Despite the gauntlet of dangers a small critter can face, the average worker has a life expectancy of over one year.

Workers are known as gamergates. No, they aren’t arguing about feminism and harassment in the video game industry.

They are workers that can sexually reproduce with drones, whether or not a queen is present in the colony. 

Jack Jumper Venom vs. Humans

The ant’s sting usually only causes a mild reaction in humans–like a typical ant sting. However, this species, along with others in the Myrmecia genus, can be dangerous to humans. 

Their venom is immunogenic in humans, which means that it has the potential to cause human immune systems to overreact–which means severe allergic reactions. Jack Jumper venom is responsible for about 90% of Australian ant allergies.

In Aussie Jack Jumper territory, around 3% of the population has developed an allergy to its venom. Among these allergic individuals, half can experience anaphylactic reactions, which can lead to death in rare cases.

Around 20 percent of jack jumper ants have an empty venom sac, so if you get stung by one and feel no reaction, it doesn’t mean you aren’t allergic.

Episode 290 – Tadpole Shrimp: Rice Lice

“…and today we’re talking about a crustacean that’s coming for your rice crispy treats. But more on that later.” 

What if you lived in a place that was sometimes uninhabitable for years? You’d have to prepare for the lean years. In fact, you’d need a bunker. Such is the way of the tadpole shrimp. They live in fields and meadows, but they are a fully aquatic crustacean. You don’t need to be a biologist to see the problem they have. But with these property tax rates, the trials and tribulations of finding a place to live seems to be a fact of Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 289 – Hadal Snailfish: 20,000 Leagues

“…and today we’re talking about the cousin of an alumni. But more on that later.”

Deep in the water where no fish hang out lives a glum, gloomy swimmer with some ever-present clout. The hadal snailfish lives where pretty much nothing else can live – the hadal zone. The pressure and temperature of the water alone make it almost impossible for anything with DNA to survive, and that includes just about every living thing – plant or animal. But with some zest adaptations and prepper’s supply of extra genes, it’s all good in the neighborhood here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy..

Episode 288 – Harris’s Hawk: Sky Wolf

“…and today we’re talking about the wolfpack of the sky. But more on that later.”

Now this is the Law of the desert— as blue and as vast as the sky;

And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, like the birds that hunt as they fly? 

The family that hunts together, eats together. Such is the way of Harris’ Hawk, and their way is uniquely theirs. This bird is the only raptor in the animal kingdom that truly is a clever girl, hunting in a pack. But when prey is sparse and can see you coming, you’ll need help on the hunt in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 287 – Squat Shrimp: Hardly Twerking

“…and today we’re talking about a sea creature that somebody at some point apparently thought was quite attractive. But more on that later.”

The coral reefs of the shallow tropics are home to a wide variety of dazzling displays, but none so alluring as the vibrant dance of the sexy shrimp. From its colorful home nestled safely in the arms of its anemone partner, the sexy shrimp tangoes, flamencos, and meringues. But feeling the rhythm of the night is all part of survival here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.