Episode 130 – Giant Cuttlefish: A Tricky Trist

“…and today we’re talking about another misnamed sea creature with a sneaky nature.”

The coral reefs of Australia are bright and colorful places of happiness for all kinds of fish and sea critters. But there’s always danger lurking around every corner. One surly cephalopod has a habit of hypnotizing its prey and tricking its rivals with fancy flashes. The cuttlefish is simultaneously a dangerous predator and a master con artist. But being one of the smartest invertebrates has its advantages and helps it survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 129 – Golden Poison Dart Frog: The Miniature Midas

“…and today we’re talking about a tiny bright yellow animal that doesn’t have to worry about most predators. But more on that later.”

The rainforest is a lush verdant landscape covered in shades of green and brown. Organisms that deviate from this chromatic conformity usually want to be seen like budding flowers or lovestruck birds. But what if you’re a small earthbound amphibian? You’d want to blend into the forest, never to be seen by the multitude of hungry animals that could make a meal out of you. Not so with one bright yellow frog that wants to broadcast its position to every creature within eye-shot. But having a hidden trick behind your back is often the golden rule in Life, Death, and Taxonomy. 

Episode 128 – Praying Mantis: The Penitent Predator

“…and today we’re talking about an insect that’s not as pious and charitable as it’s posture projects. But more on that later.”

While the prayers of a righteous man availeth much, the prayers of a righteous bug aren’t as effective. In fact, there is no such thing as a righteous bug. But that doesn’t stop the infamous praying mantis from folding its hands whenever it gets the chance. But contrary to unpopular belief, the mantis isn’t praying (with an “-a”), he’s preying (with an “-e”). These hands, folded in mock prayer, are actually swift to shed blood—insect blood, that is. But that’s just another day in the brutal world of insects here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 127 – Lion: The Sultan of the Savannah

“…and today we’re talking about the sultan of the Savannah, the prince of the pride, the king of the jungle. But more on that later.”

Cats are a solitary bunch. They prefer quiet naps in trees or in the sunbeam cast in an otherwise vacated living room. The loner lifestyle is just easier for felines that perfect hunting and don’t want to share their kills. But one, and only one cat prefers to live and hunt as a team. Together, these pantheras can dominate the best areas of the Savannah, and all it takes is a little social interaction. But cooperation in a demanding environment is easier said than done in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 126 – Harpy Eagle: The Raging Raptor

“Today we’re talking about a bird that’s as fearless as it is big. More on that later.”

Life in the rainforest can be hard, but not if you’re a harpy eagle. Enjoying a top spot at the head of its food chain, these frilly feathers can choose from a wide variety of animals to make its meal. While most birds choose easy, light prey, the harpy eagle goes for the hefty haunches. But being able to carry your own weight is how you snag the prime prey here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 125 – Okapi: The Sneak Forest Ungulate

“And today we’re talking about a big sneaky horse, giraffe, zebra. But more on that later.”

The African Savannah is dominated by predators but the jungles of the Congo aren’t much safer. The dense forests conceal powerful predators like the leopard, which catches prey that didn’t even know she was there. Today, poachers are even more dangerous, taking game with dwindling numbers. Where is an African ungulate to find refuge? Only through a toolkit of stealth and evasion that’s unheard of among large creatures. But when your environment seems stacked against you, skill and perseverance is the key to Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 124 – Giant Moray Eel: The Alien of the Deep

“And today we’re talking about a sci-fi fish with some grumpy gills. But more on that later.”

If you were to go diving almost anywhere in the shallows of an Indo-Pacific ocean, there’s a good chance you’ll find a moray eel stationed in some of the porous holes left in the rocky coral reefs. Looking like a cross between a snake, a dragon, and a cartoon witch, the moray eel poses little threat to humans, but is a menace to reef fish. With an unusual jaw that you might find in a painting by H.R. Geiger, the moray may seem a little unhinged when he eats. But getting a good grip on your prey is the best way to catch a slippery fish here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 123 – Dwarf Olive Snail: The Swash Surfer

“Today we’re talking about an aquatic olive garden. But more on that later…”

The sun, surf, and gentle sound of waves crashing against the sandy shores may bring to mind a welcome respite from daily life. But as with human surfers, the beach is life for some tidal animals. There’s a whole world of creatures living and dying in the swash and backwash of the briny tide, where the land meets the sea. But learning to live in this unique ecosystem is how one snail makes its way in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 122 – African Elephant: The Savannah’s Bulldozer

“…and today we’re going to talk about the elephant in the room. More on that for the entire episode…”

Striding across the African Savannah in a constant search for food, the African Elephant is the largest land animal in the world. But in spite of its size, the elephant is a master of subtlety. When large family groups are social distancing in the wilderness, it’s vital that they stay connected remotely without alerting anyone nearby who may be looking for a snack of elephantine proportions. But communicating under the radar is all part of the elephant’s survival here in LDT.

Episode 121 – Lesser Long-Nosed Bat: A Long Secret

“…And today we’re talking about an animal that has gotten some bad press recently. But hopefully some cool facts will turn it around. More on that later.”

A dry barren wasteland seems like the kind of place most creatures would avoid. But the dessert offers rare opportunities to those who have the tools to capitalize on the hidden bounty. But even if you do, there are challenges to overcome and one misstep can mean the end. But one aerial mammal may have just what it takes to make America’s Southwest their home. But strange animals with niche tools in strange places are part of the beauty of Life, Death, and Taxonomy.