Episode 228 – Bedford’s Flatworm: Contentious Coupling

“…and today we’re talking about a flying magic carpet of the ocean. But more on that later.”

Motherhood is one of nature’s most lofty challenges, especially if you’re alone, in the wild, with limited resources. Protecting eggs or young, may mean giving up your own well-being, to give your offspring a fighting chance. But Bedford’s Flatworm has a plan to avoid this duty. Unfortunately, the strongest of the species is most able to escape responsibility on the darker side of Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 227 – African Lungfish: Pablo Aestivate

“…and today we’re talking about a fish that is built to live where fish shouldn’t live. But more on that later.” 

Deep in the heart of darkness, one heart truly treasures the darkness. The African Lungfish may need water to survive, but it has a foolproof method to survive the continent’s frequent dry spells. If mucous and self-cannibalization are to your liking, you might find a kindred spirit in this floppy fellow here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the African Lungfish

  • The West African lungfish is similar to a catfish, with its longbodied shape. In fact, it’s almost eel-shaped. 
  • It’s pectoral and anal fins are long and thin. They hang down like spindly legs. 
  • They have small eyes and short snouts.

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, but we’re going to revisit our greatest hits.

This week’s Measure Up greatest hit comes from Nat Sabin from the Across the Ages Podcast.

Length

  • 1 m (3.3 ft)
  • How many West African lungfish go into the farthest distance a living bull shark has been found?
  • Hint: Bull Sharks have been found in the Amazon, Zambezi, and Mississippi rivers along with several other major fresh waterways around the world. 
  • 3,678,400 lungfish. A bull shark was found 3,700 km (2,299 miles) away from the ocean in the upper Amazon River.

Weight

  • 18 lbs (8.1 kg)
  • How many lungfish go into the largest invasive species in the world?
  • Hint: The largest invasive species comes from Africa and it’s wreaking havoc in South America.
  • 222 lbs. A hippo in Africa can reach 4,000 pounds. 

Fast Facts about the African Lungfish

The west African lungfish is a freshwater fish that lives in rivers in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and the area known as Sahel, which is the area between the Sahara Desert and to the north and the savannah to the south. 

They live partially buried in the muck of riverbeds. In the dry season, West African rivers and streams can dry up. To survive, the lungfish can aestivate for up to a full year. Aestivation is like hibernation that involves a state of inactivity and low metabolic rate. The main difference is that it takes place in summer.

The fish likes to eat mollusks, shrimp, crabs, and smaller fish. If there is no food around, it’s no big deal. It can stand to miss a meal or 1,200 – they can go for 3.5 years without food. They can again bury themselves and not emerge until conditions are better. 

Major Fact

African Lungfish have some interesting survivability traits. The first is their namesake. Like LDT alum the snakehead, it has two methods of breathing. Not just gills for filtering oxygen out of the water, but also a primitive lung to get that sweet O2 out of the air. This, plus covering its body in a thick mucus, allows it to flop onto land and pull itself from one body of water to the other.

The other trait it has for survival is even more unique. It’s one of the few fish that truly hibernate when it gets too cold, or more often, too dry – which is called estivation in this case.

Before aestivation, it will burrow into the ground. It will then cover itself in mucous that dries around it. It will stop all feeding and slow its body systems down to a crawl.

It can stay in this state for up to five years without food or water. It survives by slowly digesting the muscle tissue in its large tail. So it curls up in a ball and eats its own tail for a few years whenever it gets too dry out.

 Pouring water on it will wake it up and force it to evacuate its bowels and feverishly look for something to eat to restore the muscle tissue it lost during the estivation.

Ending: So curl up, coat yourself in mucous, and eat your own tail if you have to like the African Lungfish here in LDT.

Episode 226 – Java Mouse Deer: Diminutive Deer

“…and today we’re talking about a tiny deer rodent that is neither deer nor rodent. But more on that later.”

If you’re off the beaten trail in Indonesia, you may catch a glimpse of a creature more elusive than a forest gnome. You may assume it was a rat or a rabbit. But was it standing on tall, spindly legs? The bizarre Java-mouse deer is known by many names, but it’s truly in a category of its own. As a small delicate creature, the animal’s greatest defense is to be a forest phantom – a traveler of twilight. But there’s no question this tiny ungulate occupies a unique corner of Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Description of the Java-Mouse Deer

  • The mouse deer is exactly what it sounds like. It looks like a tiny baby deer with the head and face of a mouse – or a weasel
  • It sort of looks like it has the roundish body of a rabbit with skinny deer legs sticking out
    • It has a little deer flap of a tail
    • It even has tiny hooves!
  • It has a pointed, mousey face with large eyes, a long snoot, and rounded ears.
  • Its fur is grayish-brown, becoming lighter and oranger closer to the belly
  • The belly itself is white with white and black stripes running up its neck to its jaw
  • It would be bordering on cute, but it also has large tusks that extend downward out of its mouth.

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, but we’re going to revisit our greatest hits.

Length

  • 45 cm (18 in)
  • How many java-mouse deer go into the smallest tiger subspecies? 
  • Hint: The bali tiger is the smallest known tiger subspecies, which is now extinct. Though it was closely related to the sumatran tiger. Revised taxonomy now includes both the bali tiger and the sumatran tiger under the classification Panthera tigris sondaica.
  • 5.1 mouse-deer. Male bali tigers were 220–230 cm (90.5 inches)

Weight

  • 1 to 2 kilograms (2.2 to 4.4 lb)
  • How many java-mouse deer go into the largest serving of grilled satay?
  • Hint: Grilled satay is a dish of meat on a stick with sauce. It’s often marinated chicken. The earliest origins of satay are thought to come from Java. The record was achieved in Bali in 2010. 
  • 682.5 mouse-deer. The serving was 1,365 kg (3,009 lb 31 oz).

Fast Facts about the Java-Mouse Deer

  • Range: Lives exclusively on Java, the most popular front-end web development language. Actually, it’s the second largest island in Indonesia, with Sumatra being the largest.
    • They live in dense bamboo forests near riverbanks at relatively high elevations.
  • Diet: They mostly eat leaves and grasses but they can sometimes eat fruit, insects, and fungi.
  • Behavior
    • They tend to be solitary, territorial, and crepuscular
    • If they are scared or threatened, they’ll shriek and stamp the ground with their tiny hooves (Tiny Dancer).

Major Fact: Diminutive Deer

Chevrotains are the smallest ungulates in the world. As a tiny mammal, it’s developed several methods of survival in the dangerous jungle habitats that it inhibits. 

Its primary defense against danger is its elusive nature. Mouse deer are so elusive, they can be difficult to study. At the first sign of a researcher, they bolt to the cover of bushes, never to be seen again. 

They are usually brown, with countershading and modeled fur coloration to serve as pattern disruption. But their stealth goes deeper. Their tiny delicate hooves allow them to move through the forest silently, without trodding down crispy foliage. They also rarely make a sound, unless they are angrily drumming on the ground. Males will stomp on the ground four to seven times per second when they become agitated.

A particular species that’s native to the African tropics called the water chevrotain will jump into rivers and streams to avoid predators. It will walk along the bottom where it can hold its breath for five minutes. They like to surface near dense vegetation to see if the threat has passed. 

They are so private, that they were once thought to be nocturnal, only showing themselves under the cover of darkness. Though the night can be dangerous for a small prey animal. Instead, they are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. 

One species was thought not to exist because it was never seen by researchers until 2017. The Vietnam mouse-deer was only just officially recorded when locals tipped off researchers as to where they could place motion capture cameras.

Their little tusks aren’t generally used to fight off predators. Rather, they are used to settle territorial disputes with other mouse-deer. 

Ending: So stay elusive, stay smol, and live the island life like the java mouse deer here in LDT.

Episode 225 – Green-Banded Broodsac: Fishing to Fly

“…and today we’re talking about parasitic creatures that Andrew Ryan would absolutely hate. But more on that later.”

Nature is sometimes beautiful and majestic, and sometimes it’s the most horrifying thing you’ve ever seen—but at least it’s almost always interesting! If you see a snail with large flashing horns on its head, you’re not looking at the world’s slowest Viking rave, you’re looking at the alluring dance of a superparasite. But, in the shrunken world of the green-banded broodsac, its eat and be eaten—before being eaten again here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 224 – Bearded Vulture: Iron Wings

“…and today we’re talking about a metal bird that lives a metal lifestyle. But more on that later.”

In nature, there are certain rules. Deer eat grass, wolves eat deer, and vultures eat dead things. But sometimes, animals will break the rules to survive when the going gets tough. Deer are known to occasionally eat small animals like birds. Wolves can supplement their diets with plants, and one vulture may be a bit impatient when waiting for a potential meal to die. But the rules of nature are more like guidelines in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 223 – Christmas Island Red Crab: Living Red Moss

“…and today we’ll spend Easter on Christmas Island. Maybe we’ll spend Christmas on Easter Island. Not much more on that later.”

Every year, the festively named Christmas Island takes on one of its holiday hues as millions of its inhabitants make their way to the edge of the briny sea. The Christmas Island Red Crab draws people from all around the world to see one of the largest migrations on the planet. But what exactly prompts these conspicuous crustaceans to get together in the world’s biggest annual Christmas party? It’s all just part of the circle of Life, Death, And Taxonomy.

Episode 222 – Corsac Fox: The Climbing Canine

“…And today we’re talking about another fox with shifty, untrustworthy eyes. But more on that later.” 

The Eurasian Steppe is a vast plain where water and food can be scarce. But a wily creature can take advantage of the forbidding environment. Foxes live and thrive on every continent except for Antarctica. But to survive in the frigid, dry shrubland, it takes some special skills. The Corsac fox is a canine like any other, but it has a special skill that many of its kin can’t boast. But adversity often breeds innovation in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 221 – Tiger Beetle: Blinded by the Flight

“…and today we’re talking about a tiny tiger that’s got its mind set on you. But more on that later.”

When it comes to the speediest speedsters, you don’t often look for champions in the insect world. They may be small, but they can be quick once you factor in their size. The Australian tiger beetle is a prime example, darting around faster than the eye can follow. In fact, it moves too fast for its own good. Find out how this tiny track star keeps things under control without the speed force here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 220 – Gee’s Golden Langur: A Telltale Tail

“…and today we’re talking about a curious king with a golden crown. But more on that later.”

When you’re the king of the swingers it means you’ve reached the top and had to stop. But balancing at the top branches of an Indian forest requires considerable skill. For a monkey that spends most of his time in the forest canopy, jumping from branch to branch is just a part of life. But one poorly aimed leap could mean the end of your monkeying around. But learning to adapt to a risky lifestyle is the way of the golden langur in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 219 – Brazilian Wandering Spider: Vitriolic Venom

“…and today we’re talking about the type of guy who will never settle down, where delicious bugs are, well you know that he’s around. But more on that later.”

When Harry Belafonte tells his fellow banana pickers to hide the deadly black tarantula, he may have been talking about a different spider entirely. The Brazilian Wandering Spider is known for having some of the most powerful venom in all of spider-kind. Plus, it can sometimes be found in banana shipments, so the story checks out. Find out why this eight-legged freak packs such a potent punch here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Brazilian Wandering Spider

  • The Brazilian wandering spider has an almond shaped body with a large abdomen and thorax that’s about a half to two thirds the size. 
  • Their legs are similar in size and proportion to their body to a tarantula, though maybe a little thinner. 
  • The spider is brown to tan with black leg segments. Their legs also have thin, black spins pointed down away from their bodies.  
  • They are covered in dense, fine chitinous hair.

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! 

  1. Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web 
  2. Miss Spider from James and the Giant Peach
  3. Black Widow from Corpse Bride
  4. Rose from A Bug’s Life

Leg Span

  • 13 to 18 cm (5.1 to 7.1 in)
  • How many spiders go into the height of the largest wave surfed on record by a woman?
  • Hint: Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira broke this record in September of 2020 in Praia do Norte, Portugal. She said, “The wave was pretty special although it was terrifying as well!” The picture looks crazy!
  • 124 spider leg spans. The wave was 73.5 foot (22.4 meters).

Weight 

  • 1 oz (28 g)
  • How many Brazilian wandering spiders go into the weight of the number of chicken nuggets that Leah Shutkever was able to eat in one minute?
  • Hint: Leah Shutkever is back with a new record this month. You may remember her from our wood frog episode when we talked about her Fererro Rocher eating record. In March 2022, she made records again. 
  • 12.5 spiders. Shutkever was able to eat 352 grams of nuggets, which is about 19 nuggets. 

Fast Fact about the Brazilian Wandering Spider

The Brazilian wandering spider is found in forests in central and South America. They are found as far south as Argentina and as far North as Costa Rica.

Wandering spiders get their name from the fact that they are active predators that hunt for prey, rather than lying in wait in a web. 

They hunt on the jungle floor at night and rest in dark hiding places during the day. When humans encounter these guys, it’s often because they find them in laundry baskets, under piles of debris, or most famously in banana containers. 

Young spiders spend most of their time in vegetation and take to ground hunting when they reach maturity.

They eat large insects, crickets, lizards, and even small mammals like mice. They are sometimes eaten by insectivorous mammals, including coatis. 

Major Fact: Vitriolic Venom

So in the intro to this episode, we mentioned that the Brazilian wandering spider ranks among the deadliest spiders in the world.

The reason is twofold. They have extremely toxic venom. And they inject a lot of it when they bite.

It’s believed that they don’t inject venom with every bite. They may do a “dry bite” in order to conserve venom. Some studies have shown that they may also tailor the amount of venom to the size of their prey.

Because of this behavior, it’s tough to call the Brazilian Wandering Spider the deadliest spider on Earth. The Sydney Funnel Web Spider is often considered the deadliest, even though it may not have the most toxic venom. This is because it doesn’t have the finesse of the wandering spider, it injects as much venom as it can into every bite regardless of the situation. This makes it super dangerous while a bite from a brazilian wandering spider may not even have venom in it at all.

Females produce more venom and so have a greater capacity for deadliness.

If you’re bit, and you get the VIP treatment from the spider, you’ll start to see symptoms in 10 to 20 minutes. Severe pain with shoot throughout the bitten area, your blood pressure will increase, you’ll experience vertigo, feverishness, nausea, vomiting, paralysis, and respiratory depression – making it tough to breathe. This last symptom is usually the fatal one.

Fortunately, there’s an antivenom that will save your life if you’re on the business end of a banana spider’s fang.

However, one symptom, the increased blood pressure, has drawn attention for its uses to treat ED due to the – uh, stiffening effects that the venom has on men.

Ending: So stay on the move, eat your bananas, and keep your venom topped off like the Brazilian Wandering Spider here in LDT.