Episode 212 – Black Widow Spider: Bad Reputation

“…And today we’re talking about a woman who doesn’t give a darn about her bad reputation.”

The black widow spider is nature’s ultimate example of the femme fatale. An unyielding queen in the middle of her silken throne, waiting for the lowly male, driven to her by an instinct most basic.  Though her signature red hourglass may be a reminder that our days are numbered, the widow’s reputation may not paint the full picture. Still, she’s just one of many animals that engage in a sinister practice that’s common in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 211 – Reindeer: Lobos and Lichens

“…and today we’re talking about the titans of the tundra, the cervids of Santa. But more on that later.”

Reindeer are famous for flying, being rude to those that are different from them, and fiercely defending Johnny’s Turbo Man action figure. But one reindeer has an unusual nose that’s even more famous. Researchers have spent entire minutes figuring out why red color is best color for glow nose so that we can have a better understanding of the story’s scientific accuracy. But it turns out that seeing red is actually a good thing if you’re a reindeer here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy..

Episode 210 – Rock Hyrax: The Petra Pachyderm

“…and today we forgot to say an intro blurb because we had housekeeping stuff.”

Life among the rocks provides cover from predators and a quick escape when necessary, but it also comes with its challenges. But the rock hyrax has accepted the task of adapting to this rugged terrain. For a nice warm spot to take a nap, these unique little mammals have the perfect bodies for their rough environment. But we know adaptation is the name of the game in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 209 – Giant River Otter: Apex in the Amazon

“…And today we’re walking about a lanky tooth missile that isn’t scared of nobody. But more on that later.”

The Amazon is home to many of the western hemisphere’s most successful predators. But the most surprising apex predator isn’t the piranha, the anaconda, or even the legendary jaguar – it’s the giant otter! Alone, they can take on lots of different opponents. Together, there’s nothing that they can’t handle. You definitely don’t want to put your feet up on this otterman. But being on the top of the food chain definitely has its perks as the Giant Otter knows here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 208 – Atlas Moth: To Kill a Mothingbird

“…and today we’re talking about an insect that wants you to think it floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.”

What would you do if you only had energy from the food you ate when you were a kid? You may move as little as possible, and only when you had to. That’s what the Atlas moth does, since it doesn’t have a mouth designed for eating food. But what does it do when predators show up looking to snack on a gentle, defenseless, insect? Sometimes a bluff goes a long way in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • As a caterpillar, atlas is green with spines that are white and waxy – like the Jimmy Fallon exhibit at madame tussauds
  • Their cocoons look like brown dried leaves – mostly because they are dried leaves
  • Once they become moths (or the imago stage), they have large rust red wings with cream-colored tips that have no other interesting design features whatsoever
  • Their wings also have fang or claw-shaped patterns on each side.
  • Their bodies are also rust-colored with cream-colored stripes.
  • They have long, feathered antennae that look a lot like the sea pen that are very sensitive chemoreceptors

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. 

  1. Moose
  2. Mouse
  3. Mink
  4. Skink


  • 24 cm (9.4 in)
  • How many atlas moths go into the height of the smallest elephant in the world?
  • Hint: The Borneo Pygmy elephant is native to forests of Malaysia. It’s the fourth officially recognized subspecies of Asian elephant. 
  • 7 moths. 1.7 m (5 ft 6 in)

Larva Length

  • 11.5 cm (4.5 in)
  • How many moth larvae go into the height of the tallest living tropical tree?
  • Hint: The tree was found in Borneo via a flyover. In 2019, the tree was climbed and measured. It’s a species of yellow meranti. 
  • 857 larvae. The tree is 98.53 m (323 ft 3.1 in) tall.

Fast Facts

  • Range: South, East, and Southeast Asia from the Stans to Japans
    • They like forests and shrublands
  • Diet:
    • As caterpillars they eat leaves, unsurprisingly. They primarily eat citrus, cinnamon, guava, and evergreen leaves. Though they eat their egg shell first after hatching.
    • As full-blown moths, their diet gets very interesting – and by interesting I mean nonexistent. 
      • They don’t have developed mouthparts so they can’t eat as adults. So they live for just a couple of weeks while they look for a soulmate
      • They live and love off of the fat they stored up as a caterpillar
  • Behavior:
    • When the caterpillar gets to max length (4.5”) they spin a cocoon out of silk and dry leaves and live in it for a month before emerging as adult moths with the world on their shoulders
    • Because of the fact that they can’t eat, they need to conserve energy
      • Each flight can take literal days off of their life
    • So females hang out pretty close to their cocoons and release hormones into the air currents to attract males to them. This way, she can always have enough energy to lay her eggs once they’re fertilized.
  • May have been the inspiration for the legendary monster Mothra
  • The males have antennae that are so sensitive that they can detect a few molecules of female pheromone in the air.

Major Fact: Snake in the Grass

Atlas moths are large insects, but they are delicate and vulnerable to fast moving predators. When flight can’t carry them to safety, they have to rely on something else to avoid becoming lunch.

Atlas moths have extensions on the tips of their forewings that look incredibly like snake heads. I don’t mean it’s sort of like the size and shape of a snake head. There is countershading, a black spot for an eye, and a line for a mouth. 

Of course, having the appearance of a snake is great for smaller predators, but there’s probably several birds and mammals that wouldn’t mind chowing down on a snake either. But the Atlas moth doesn’t just look like any snake. It’s coloration and shape makes it look like a cobra.

Borneo is a tropical paradise and home to many reptiles, including the Malayan spitting cobra. This cobra’s venom is extremely venomous, including neurotoxins and cardio toxins, which means it damages your brain and heart. The toxin has an LD50 in mice of 0.5 micrograms. Most animals stay far away from it.

When the moth is threatened it will land and start fanning it’s wings to appear as snake-like as possible. There’s a picture of them on a tree branch and it straight up looks like a coil of several snakes. 

Ending: So eat your eggs, stay beautiful, and keep your snake hands to yourself like the atlas moth here in LDT.

Episode 207 – Wood Frog: Deep Freeze

“…and today we’re talking about a chill amphibian with a cool pair of sunglasses. But more on that later.”

Being cold blooded is usually fine, as long as you live in a warm-ish area. But what about the chilly-bloods living in the less-than-warm regions of the world? Some dig into the ground, some just die, and others, like the wood frog, take the cold like a champ. Find out how this frigid frog avoids becoming a permanent frogsicle here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 206 – Boxer Crab: The Pom Pom Punch

“…and today we’re talking about yet another crustacean that packs a punch. More on that later.”

For a small crab with very little claws, there’s a ton of pressure on the ocean floor. Bigger fish can swallow you up like you were supposed to be in Nineveh. But when the challenge of survival is laid at one crab’s single-spiked feet, it picks up the gauntlet. The boxer crab climbs the steps of success and fights above his weight class using a clever trick his opponents don’t see coming. But using what you have at your disposal is the best way to win in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

 Description of the Boxer Crab

  • Tiny colorful crab 
  • Cream-colored carapace with eight legs striped with brown rings. The polygonal plates on the body are also lined with smoke on the water (deep purple).
  • There is a series of large brown-red plates on either side of its body that looks like big angry eyes.
  • Its coloration and pattern disruption allow it to blend into its sandy and coral-based environment pretty well. He wants the predators to think that he is leaving, he is leaving but the fighter still remains.
    • This is crucial because it’s not as well equipped to handle predators as most other crabs.
    • The boxer crab is pretty small and has a relatively thin and weak carapace.
    • Its front claws are small and underdeveloped, so it can’t really catch prey or fend off predators on its own.

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. 

  1. Goose
  2. French Hen
  3. Partridge
  4. Swan

Carapace Width

  • 0.5 inches (13 mm)
  • How many boxer crabs go into the height of the tallest professional boxer in history?
  • Hint: The tallest boxer is actually three boxers that all share the same height. Gogea Mitu of Romania in the 1930s, John Rankin fought only once in 1967 at 300 pounds, and Jim Cully fought in the 1940s but some sources say he was an inch or two shorter. 
  • 171 crabs. The tallest boxers were 7’4” (223.5 cm)


  • 20 m (66 ft)
  • How many boxer crab living depths go into the depth of the deepest permafrost in the world?
  • Hint: Permafrost is permanently frozen earth for at least two years. Permafrost can occur on land or under the ocean. Around 15% of land on earth is permafrost.
  • 50 crab depths. In Siberia, there’s an area of permafrost 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) down. 

Fast Facts About the Boxer Crab

  • Range: Lives in and around the Hawaiian Islands
  • Diet: Boxer crabs are omnivorous scavengers. 
    • They eat plant matter, dead animals, basically anything they can find. 
    • However, they don’t really hunt thanks to their underdeveloped claws.

Major Fact: The Pom Pom Punch

The boxer crab has a pair of colorful boxing gloves that provide a secret weapon against predators. Boxer crabs have pinchers that lack sufficient armor, so they can’t really use them to defend themselves or find food. 

Instead, they use their pincers to grab onto small sea anemone. These anemone are living creatures closely related to jellyfish. 

The crabs hold them all the time and only let go briefly to molt. They’ll use the anemones for two reasons. The first is that the tentacles of the anemone passively gather food particles that the crab scraps off and eats. 

Boxers also use the anemones for protection. When a predator approaches, they’ll get a swat from the crab. The anemones pack cnidocytes, which are stinging cells. They can deter larger predators and even kill smaller ones. 

The pom poms are a precious resource. If a crab is without one and can’t find one on their own, they may steal one from another crab. However, if a crab loses an anemone, they can rip the remaining one in half and it will regenerate, creating two new ones. If a crab loses both, they may still regrow from small pieces left in their claws. 

When crabs fight each other, they don’t use their pom poms. They will wave them around threateningly, but they ultimately use their legs to fight. We aren’t sure why. Some theories are that they aren’t effective, and don’t sting the crabs. The pom poms may be such a precious resource, that they don’t want to risk losing them.

If there are no anemones to be found, the crabs may use sponges or coral as a replacement. It’s unclear what the anemone gets out of the deal, though it may have to do with mobility. Moving around with the crab exposes it to more oxygen and food. 

If you were to be punched by a boxer crab, you may feel a very painful sting, followed by swelling, redness, and lesions that last for several weeks. 

Ending: So use what you can find, keep an eye out for predators, and wave those death poms like you just don’t care like the boxer crab here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 205 – False Deaths Head Cockroach: Survivability Over Cuteness

“…and today we’re talking about everyone’s favorite animal! But more on that later…”

You know ‘em, you hate ‘em, you have ‘em – they’re cockroaches. Yes, it’s time for the interesting animal podcast to talk about everyone’s favorite scittering critter. Odds are good that you’ve encountered one of these pleasant house guests within the last month, so maybe your love for roaches is still fresh on the mind. There’s a common understanding that roaches are extremely difficult to kill. Pesticides, floods, and even nuclear holocaust aren’t enough to wipe these guys out. But how much truth is there to that? Let’s find out just how well the roach survives here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • This roach looks like a roach. But it’s slightly more of a round shape than a long oval like other roaches. 
  • It’s a light tan with dark brown legs and a dark black spot on the back of its head. 
  • Younger roaches are brown with light tan speckles. 

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. 

  1. White goose
  2. Swans a swimming
  3. Colly bird
  4. Partridge 


  • 35–45 mm (1.4–1.8 in)
  • How many roaches would it take to reach the distance traveled by the first team to row the Atlantic from east to west from Europe to South America? 
  • Hint: In 2016, Ross Johnson, Jason Fox, Aldo Kane, Oliver Bailey, and Matt Bennett rowed from Lagos, Portugal to Carupano, Venezuela. 
  • 135,097,600 roaches. The trip was 3,335 nautical miles or (6,177 km, 3,838 miles)


  • American Cockroaches are larger and weigh between 0.1 g and 0.12 g (0.0035-0.004 oz). So we’ll call this 0.1 grams (0.003 oz).
  • How many discoid roaches go into the largest serving of guacamole ever?
  • Hint: The dip was made in 2018 by Junta Local de Sanidad Vegetal de Tancítaro in Mexico. 
  • 37,880,000 roaches. The guac weighed 3,788 kilograms (8351.11 pounds).

Fast Facts

Discoids come from Central and South America. 

These roaches make good robots. Let me explain. In 2012, a team of researchers implanted a small fuel cell into a discoid roach. The roach produced a power density of 55 microwatts per square centimeter. It’s enough to power small devices and may be enough to power other devices that they’ve already made that can hijack the roach nervous system. Then, they just slap a tiny camera on it to get a better look at areas harmful to humans. 

They are often sold as food for pet reptiles and they’re considered easy to raise in captivity. But who would want to?

Discoid cockroaches are also a popular food in insect eating competitions. In fact, a man died in a cockroach eating competition in Deerfield Beach, Florida in 2012. He died after winning the contest. His prize as going to be a $850 python.

Major Fact: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stranger

  • Cockroaches are well known for their survivability. I remember as a kid believing that they would survive a nuclear bomb. There were even reports that roaches were thriving in Hiroshima and Nagasaki after we politely asked Japan if they wouldn’t mind surrendering in WWII.
    • But I was confused because you can easily kill one by just stepping on it (I had nuclear feet!)
    • Plus Wall-E had a cockroach as the only living animal on Earth after it becomes an unlivable hellscape. Also, that movie probably the only time a cockroach has ever been considered cute.
    • All told, roaches are known for their ability to survive through Earth, Wind, and Fire ‘cause they’re stayin’ alive!
  • But how much truth is there to their survivability? Scientists recently sequenced the genome of the American cockroach, so let’s find out:

#1 – Cockroaches survive without their heads

  • True. They breathe through holes in the sides of their body and have an open circulatory system, so they don’t actually need their heads to breathe. They still can’t eat or drink so they’ll eventually die of dehydration, but that can take up to a week!

#2 – Cockroaches don’t need to breathe

  • Not true, but Papa Roach can survive for up to 40 minutes without oxygen!

#3 – Cockroaches will eat anything

  • This is true. They’ll eat starch in books, wallpaper, glue, stamps, your dried skin flakes and hair, plus all of the stuff you already know they eat. Their genes also allow them to break down just about any substance they can get in their mouths – including many pesticides, which contributes to their mythos.

#4 – Roaches can survive nuclear blasts

  • Nope. Nothing can survive a direct blast from a nuclear bomb

#5 – Roaches can survive nuclear radiation

  • Well, we can all survive some level of radiation, but roaches seem to be more resistant to gamma rays than humans (6-15 times more). But there are other insects that can survive more, like the fruit fly. Everything dies when you use lots of radiation though—which is good because HulkRoach would be terrifying and the Avengers don’t need another arthropod-based hero on their team.

Ending: So stay alive, breathe through your ventral tubes, and don’t get squished like a little cockroach here in LDT

Episode 204 – Ribbon Eel: The Future is Female

“…and today we’re talking about the Christmas decoration of the sea. More on that later.” 

The ocean can be a dangerous place. There’s always a bigger fish waiting for an unsuspecting creature to become its next meal. One brightly colored eel avoids these threatening open maws by rarely leaving their homes in the crevasse of protecting coral. But when they do they showcase a mesmerizing ribbon-like display of yellow and blue. Sometimes, even content introverts have to make their way out into the world in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 203 – Wheel Bug: A Cog in the Machine

“…and today we’re talking about a bug that sounds like a pokemon, but looks like a dark souls enemy.”

The insect world is a horrifyingly brutal one. For most, life is hard, stressful, and short. This is due, in part, to the work of players like the Assassin Bug. Many bugs that rely on their tough exoskeletons for defense will find that the assassin bug can turn that advantage against them. Using moves known only to spiders, the assassin springs from the shadows to snag its next meal. But kill or be killed is the law of the jungle here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Wheel Bug

  • We got ourselves an elongated beetle-like body, with a proportionally small oblong head. 
  • They have a single segmented proboscis coming out of their face. 
  • They have six long, thin legs.
  • They are mostly black and brown with some white and tan coloration. 
  • The most notable feature is a saw-like dorsal crest on their thorax.

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 that means we get to hear from an animal and Carlos has to guess what it is.

  1. French Hen
  2. Turtle Dove
  3. Partridge
  4. Mute swan


  • 1.5 inches (38 mm)
  • How many wheel bugs go into the world’s tallest real Christmas tree?
  • Hint: The tree was cut and decorated in Seattle in 1950 at the Northgate Shopping Center.
  • 1,696 bugs. The tree was 212 feet (64.6 meters)

Egg Clusters

  • 40 to 200
  • How many wheel bug egg clusters go into the largest collection of dinosaur eggs?
  • Hint: The largest collection of dinosaur eggs is located at the Heyuan Museum in China. The collection includes eggs from oviraptors and duck-billed dinosaurs. 
  • 50 egg clusters. The collection has 10,008 individual samples.

Fast Facts about the Wheel Bug

  • Wheel bugs are found in Central and North America.
  • Their segmented proboscis is folded up normally, but it unfolds forward like an eldritch horror straw.
  • Wheel bugs walk and fly very slowly, so it’s brown, black, and tan coloration help keep a low profile.
  • It has sent glands from which it can shoot a stinky scent when threatened. It’s not as potent as a stink bug, but humans can detect it.
  • They are fairly aggressive and will even cannibalize each other when necessary. 
  • They can use their fell beaks to rub their thorax to stridulate, like a cricket. We don’t know why they make those sounds.
  • When they hatch, they are black and red in their nymph stage, which kind of looks like a black widow. 
  • They will molt five times, with around 18 days between molts. 

Major Fact

  • Assassin bugs are so named thanks to their incredibly efficient and brutal hunting style
  • They’re predators that grasp their prey with their long legs covered in tiny chitinous hairs that help keep the prey in place. 
    • They then proceed to stab the prey with their long proboscises and inject their saliva into the poor bug’s carapace.
    • The assassin bug’s saliva is filled with digestive enzymes that break down the insides of the prey – essentially turning it into a delicious kinder egg smoothie.
    • Then it just slurps up the good goo with that very same proboscis
    • This predatory strategy is usually reserved for spiders, so it’s rare to find this in an insect.
  • Since so many of their prey species are pests, people actually tend to want assassin bugs in their house
    • Some people breed these little guys and keep them in their homes as a natural pest control
    • One species in Australia has large feathery tufts on its hind legs and waits for ants to bite into the tufts before giving them the ol’ stab n’ slurp.
  • However, there are other species that are blood-sucking parasites, which people tend to be less fond of. 
    • Kissing bugs, for example, like to crawl onto your face while you’re sleeping and suck the blood out of your lips!
    • These guys also tend to spread disease like other blood-based parasites.
  • The wheel bug is particularly aggressive toward basically everyone. It will attack much larger insects than itself and even engage in some tried and true sexual cannibalism. The nymphs also will eat each other.
  • Getting bit by one of these guys is painful and takes a long time to subside.

Ending: So pick your target, wield your proboscis well, and make sure your spit is full of enzymes like the assassin bug here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.