Episode 96 – Cape Buffalo: Revenge on the Range

“And today we are talking about beefiest boys in the bovine brotherhood. But bore on that later.”

Clutching his rifle in his hand, veteran British big game hunter Owain Lewis made his way through the dense brush of Zimbabwe, carefully tracking an injured cape buffalo that had been shot three days earlier by an American visiting hunter who had failed to finish it off. With the task now falling to him and his hunting apprentice, it all comes down to a game of cat and mouse. But who’s the cat, and who’s the mouse? We’ll find out here in LDT.

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Episode 95 – Bobbit Worm: The Terror Tube

“And today were talking about a terror tube that makes the sarlacc that swallowed Bobba Fett seem like a kiss on the cheek. But more on that later.”

The ocean floor is a treasure trove of decaying plant and animal matter that’s ripe for the picking for fish and invertebrates that are looking for tasty morsels. But in case you forgot, the ocean can be a terrifying alien landscape full of awful oddities. A fish combing the sand for aquatic treats may instead find their doom shooting out of the sand at blinding speed. In the blink of an eye, victims are wrenched below the sand, never to be seen again. But a quick and decisive strike may be what a disturbing ocean worm needs to avoid hunger in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 94 – Tarantula Hawk: Gross Pepsi

“…and today we’re talking about a creepy crawly with a nasty sting that might be living in your backyard.”

K – Animalia  P – Arthropoda  C – Insecta O – Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, yellow jackets, hornets)  F – Pompilidae (parasitic wasps) SubF – Pepsinae G – Pepsis S – Gross

Spider Parasites

  • While an adult tarantula hawk is nectivorous (it only eats nectar), the same cannot be said of its larva stage
  • When a female tarantula hawk has mated, it will start looking for a place to lay its egg. (single egg)
  • Most animals like to lay their eggs in a place that is safe and has an abundant food source, and our friend quentin tarantula hawk is no different.
  • She will find a nice quiet tarantula to settle down on, you know, something out in the country. Then she’ll sting it with what is likely the worst insect sting imaginable.
  • Seriously, this thing is bad. For humans, it’s been called one of the most painful stings on earth.
    • One researcher said that the sting is “…immediate, excruciating, unrelenting pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except scream. Mental discipline simply does not work in these situations.”
    • The actual guy who came up with the sting pain index, Justin Schmidt, called it “blinding, fierce, and shockingly electric”.
    • Second on the pain index losing to the bullet ant
    • The sting is not fatal to anyone who doesn’t have an allergy and the pain lasts for about five minutes.
  • For tarantulas, the sting paralyzes them
    • The wasp squares off with the spider and hits it with one sting to get things going. The spider will be crippled but still mobile. Then the wasp will sting it a few more times.
    • I saw a video where the wasp got on its back and crawled under the spider, like it was a mechanic inspecting its chassis
    • Then the wasp drags the spider’s limp, hairy body to the spider’s own lair and attaches its egg to the spider’s abdomen before sealing the entrance to the lair
  • Then, the larva hatches and starts eating the paralyzed spider from the inside out, being careful to avoid vital organs so the spider stays alive for as long as possible.
  • When the spider is nothing but a hairy husk, the larva leaves to pupate and mature

Episode 93 – Long-Tailed Grass Lizard: Reggie Tails

And today we are telling a Thai tale of a towering tail. But more on that later.”

Grass is important to dads with perfectly manicured lawns, but it goes unnoticed by the rest of us. But what if you were a lot smaller, and you made you home in thick tall grass. You might find it more difficult to get around than a walk in the park. One lizard has come up with an interesting way to get over the green grassy seas to food, shelter, and all the things a small lizard could want. But swimming the sawgrass straights is just one method of locomotion in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Measure Up

Welcome to Measure Up, leading candidate for best part of the show, a title to be officially determined by you on December 3rd on Twitter and Facebook. This is the part of the show when we relate 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 have no new intros this week, so that means I get to play an animal sound and Carlos will guess what it is!

Length – 12 cm (4.7 in)

  • How many long-tailed Grass lizards go into the length of the Yom River in Thailand (787 km (489 mi)).
  • Hint: The Yom river starts in the Phi Pan Nam Mountains and flows to the Nan River at Chum Saeng District.
  • Answer: 6,592,136

Lifespan

  • In captivity they can live up to 5 years.
  • How many lizard life spans go into the length of time Thailand has been under its current constitution (two years).
  • The constitution was voted in by 61.4 percent of the 59.4 Thai people that participated.
  • 0.4 lizard lives.

Major Fact

  • When they say long-tailed, they aren’t kidding. 
  • The tail is about three times the length of their body. Some can grow over 12 inches with the tail!
  • Their tails are also prehensile, which means they are capable of grasping things
    • Prehensile tails are extremely dextrous compared to other tails.
  • Why does he have such a long tail? Good question.
  • I could only find a few sources with varying information.
  • One website, Wildherps.com said, “Nobody needs a tail that long, and don’t try to convince me that somebody does.”
  • Another source claimed that the lizard uses this tail to balance on unstable grass and bushes. Apparently overgrown grass is difficult to get through so the lizard will run or swim quickly across it, using its tail for balance. 
  • That seems like overkill, especially with countless lizards live in similar environments with much shorter tails. 
  • So I’ve come up with some supplementary theories based on what we know about other lizards. 
    • Chameleons use very long prehensile tails to support their arboreal lifestyles.
      • Other arboreal animals like monkeys, salamanders, and possums also have a prehensile tail.
      • Prehensile tails are also quite long because it allows for more reach and dangle potential.
    • The long-tailed grass lizard, like geckos and anoles can drop their tails when attacked by a predator.
      • Dropped tails continue to wriggle and writhe, attracting predators to them instead of the lizard.
      • A very long dropped tail could attract larger prey.
    • The monkey tail lizard and some iguanas have long prehensile tails that are used for defense. 
      • The tail can be whipped at enemies, discouraging an attack.
    • To catch prey.
      • I found that long-tailed lizards were said to be quick and agile, able to leap quickly into the air to catch flying insects.
      • Their tails might help them push off the ground with more control and speed than if they had short tails. 
    • The same reason lots of animals have seemingly unhelpful and extra oddities. To attract mates.
      • Most lizards have dewlaps to attract mates. 
      • Dewlaps are the flap of skin under their chins that flare out.
      • But maybe tail length is something the lady lizards consider.

Episode 92 – Red-Lipped Batfish: Beauty Bats

“And today we’re talking about a fish that looks like a victim of the scream extractor machine in Monsters Inc.”

You might think you know anglerfish, but think again. He strides across the ocean floor luring his prey, his body a crude caricature of a much more well-adapted animal. He’s the hero Galapagos deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll learn about him, because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a red-lipped batfish.

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Episode 91 – Tibetan Fox: The Fat Cheeks Fox

“And today we are talking about an animal that David Attenborough once called ‘the most wonderful looking fox’ and also ‘bizzare with a curious body shape.’ I guess a fox can be two things but more on that later…”

The Ethiopian highlands are often called the roof of Africa, but The Tibetan Plateau is called the roof of the world. The land here is tens of thousands of feet above sea level and it’s surrounded by some of the tallest mountains on the planet. Living and surviving in a place that regularly drops to -40 degrees Fahrenheit can be a challenge to the animals that live here. One unique mammal has found a way to team up with unsuspecting allies. Sometimes, a reluctant and one-sided partnership, is the best way a cunning fox can secure a meal in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 90 – Gelada Monkey: The Sneaky Monkey

“And to day we’re talking about a guilty little monkey. But more on that later!”

The rules of engagement vary widely in the animal kingdom, especially when it comes to romance. But whether a species has multiple mates, or just one, at least there are rules. The Gelada Monkey may seem like a tasty Italian treat, but in reality, it hides a dark secret. Going against their own instincts, two star-crossed lovers will actively deceive their fellow monkey in order to rendezvous in secret. But infidelity never goes unpunished here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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Episode 89 – Etruscan Shrew: A Rusted Shoe

“Today we are talking about a tiny mammal with a big appetite. But more on that later.”

Intro

Being tiny is difficult for a lot of reasons. It can make you easy prey for a variety of larger predators. And it can limit your own food sources to plants and even smaller animals. But being small is especially difficult for warm blooded creatures. Because of biology and physics, a small mammalian body works overtime to keep warm even in the hottest climates. For the world’s smallest mammal, it takes a lot of coal to keep their engines going. But a voracious appetite and the skills to maintain it are just what this tiny beast needs in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

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