Episode 57 – Chiton: The Neato Magneto

“…and today were are talking about a little pair of wax lips that scoots around the ocean smooching submerged surfaces.”

Molluscs come in all shapes and sizes, but this little dumpling is an armored tank. With eight shell segments and a tongue covered in sharp teeth, the Chiton has a magnetic attraction to certain places along the ocean floor. But without eyes, it needs to have an extra layer of tricks in order to find the best feeding grounds. But, of course, we know that nature is metal here in Life Death and Taxonomy.

Episode 56 – Patagonian Mara: Urine For a Big Surprise

“…Y hoy estamos hablando de un animal argentino con patas largas y un método de comunicación único.”

Nature is weird, and the Patagonian Mara is weird right alongside it. It’s not enough that it’s a crazy rabbit kangaroo deer, but it also has a form of communication that we can all agree is pretty gross. But when everything out there either wants to steal your girl or eat her for lunch, you need to take drastic measures or urine for a rough surprise here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 55 – Dracula Ant: The Formidable Formica

“…and today we’re talking about an ant that can’t grant kindness when food is scant. Even aunt ants pant for a hemolymph transplant. But more on that later.”

Madagascar is a place that’s been isolated by ocean for as long as it has existed, and it’s only recently started to be developed by humans. Because of this isolation, animals here haven’t needed to adapt to new threats, so they still cling to ancient methods, like a small town library that still uses dial-up. A closer look at the creatures here will reveal some primordial practices that may make some squeamish, like an entire family of ants that has sinister tastes in cuisine. But sometimes, the gruesome and grisly tactics are what it takes for your colony to continue in the cycle of Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 54 – Pistol Shrimp: The Sonic Slayer

“…Today we’re talking about a small fry with a loud personality and the fastest draw this side of the Mississippi… and the other side too. But more on that later…

You don’t really think of the ocean being a noisy place, but it can get pretty rambunctious down there sometimes. One of the chief troublemakers and loudmin extrordinaire is the Pistol Shrimp. He’s great at parties, but he makes for a bad tenant. With a snap that would put the Mad Titan to shame, this high-decibel decapod can stun and even kill its prey. Life may be hard for most, but hunting and surviving are just a snap for the pistol shrimp here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Art and Measure Up intro by xnamaru

The Family Alpheidae

  • The family lives all over the world’s oceans, particularly in coral reefs, in sea grasses, and oyster reefs with plenty of hiding places.
  • Includes 38 genera
  • Most prefer warm and temperate water, but one genus lives in cold water and one lives in freshwater.


  • The pistol shrimp is about the size of your finger.
  • The family comes in a variety of colors and patterns

Measure Up

Length: 3–5 cm (1.2–2.0 in) – 1.6 inches – How many shrimp go into Forrest Gump’s run in the movie Forrest Gump. Hint: A panel of experts analyzed Forrest’s Run for a story written by Lauren Hansan in The Week, and found that, though he risks foot and bone injuries, the fictional run is possible. They also said Tom Hanks runs with perfect form. Answer: 475,200,000


Family size: 1119 species in the snapping shrimp family – How many of the largest family in the world goes into the pistol shrimp family (134)? Hint: The family of father Ziona Chana are from Baktwang, India and live in a 100 room house. Answer: 8 families


Since we learned about mutualism last week, we now come across another animal that shows mutualistic behavior, this time with another animal.

  • The pistol shrimp often shares a burrow with the goby fish.
  • The shrimp builds the burrow and maintains it.
  • The goby has good eyesight and alerts the shrimp to danger.
  • Even when they leave the burrow, they shrimp will keep track of the fish with its antennae.
  • If the fish spots danger, it will communicate with the shimp with a special tail flick.


  • One genus (Synalpheus) displays eusocial behavior like the naked mole rat.
  • Colonies live inside sponges with 300 members.
  • All of them are the offspring of a single large female queen, but they may also be offspring of one male as well.
  • The colony is separated into workers and soldiers.
  • Workers tend to young and soldiers protect the colony.

Episode 53 – Clark’s Nutcracker: The Squirrelly Bird Gets the Worm

“Today we’re talking about a bird with a knack to crack snacks and packs snacks to prep for when Jack frost comes back. But more on that later.”

You may know that a lot of nature’s most amazing animal adaptations are developed in the bitter fight against winter. When earth tilts away from the warmth of the sun towards the chill of space, animals have to be prepared. When there’s no food to be found for months at a time, you’ve got to stock up. But one bird braves the cold with a 100 acre pantry. But preparation may be a matter of life, death, and taxonomy.

Episode 52 – Western Diamondback Rattlesnake: A Heat Visionary

“And today we’re talking about a moody snek with a bejeweled back and baby toy for a butt!”

Sometimes, all you need in a shootout is a keen eye and your trusty gun. But nature’s tricky, and you can’t always see your target with just your eyes. The Western Diamondback Rattlesnake can see through the fog, dust, and darkness that covers this here frontier, and it’s mighty glad it can. From stem to stern, this veritable killin’ machine is built for catchin’ varmints of all shapes and sizes, which makes it the perfect specimen of the wild west where the law is Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 51 – Water Deer: The Fanged Forrest Fawn

“…and today we’re talking about a creature whose binomial name means defenseless water drinker in latin. But more on that later.”

As the deer pants by the water, it must keep a sharp eye out for predators. Once they turn their heads down to take a few sips of that life-giving elixir, they’re vulnerable to everything the forest hides in its depths. One deer that walks the banks of the great Yangtze River, may seem like its forsaken the traditional cervid adaptations, which has left it totally defenseless. But upon closer inspection, you can see that it’s taken the anatomical road less traveled. But revolutionary evolution is our favorite topic here on Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 50 – Bullseye Snakehead: A Fishy 50th Extravaganza

“…and today we’re talking about the Bullseye snakehead, which is a classic Floridian story in that it’s from somewhere else and it’s really just making the place worse.”

Fish live and breathe water, right? Of course they do! Fish are in the water and we’re on land, that’s what prevents sharing the planet with sharks from being an omnipresent nightmare. But what if these carnivorous carps could carpe the diem and take a spin on land? The Bullseye snakehead stops at nothing to do the two things it loves to do the most: eating and reproducing. The question is: how do we stop this voracious predator from taking over the world? It might just spell the end of the first part of Life, Death and Taxonomy.

Episode 49 – Shoebill: The Prehysterical Pescatarian

“And today we’re talking about a weird-looking dinosauresque bird that looks like it may have been drawn by a fourth grader.”

Every so often, a creature comes along that defies the conventions of adaptation and reform. Such creatures cling to the tried and true and, subsequently, resemble relics of a bygone age. One prehysterical looking bird resembles something more akin to it’s dinosaur ancestors than it’s crane cousins. Some call it stagnation, but this frightening feathered behemoth calls it sticking to proven methods. But nature is all about function over form and when you find a look that works, you stick to it in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 48 – Star-Nosed Mole: The Anemone-Faced Horror

“And today we are talking about a creature that could be a schnoz seismologist. But more on that later…”

Deep in the forests of Appalachia, a friendly earthworm makes its way to who knows where. When suddenly, a dark form approaches. If it had eyes, the earthworm would see a large furry creature coming toward it, pounding the soft earth with its nose. At the end of its snout sits a wriggling mass of writhing tentacles, as though the creature had abducted the earthworm’s brethren, and assimilated them into its nostrils. The worm desperately tries to flop away, but its face/butt accidentally brushes up against the amalgamation of pink tendrils. In an instant, your already dark world is consumed by…more darkness. Hmmm… shouldn’t have picked a worm. Should have gone with crickets. Everybody likes crickets…