Episode 281 – Winghead Shark: Wing and a Scare

“…and today we were talking about Captain America of the sea with similar headwear. But more on that later.”

Description of the Winghead Shark

  • Grey and white hammerhead shark.
  • The shark cuts a thin, torpedo-shaped silhouette with a large dorsal and caudal fin.
  • They have a pronounced hammer with a larger wingspan than your typical hammerhead.

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.


  • 1.9 m (6.2 ft)
  • If degrees were measured in feet, how many winghead sharks would go into the heat of the sun’s corona (atmosphere)?
  • Hint: The sun’s surface is 10,340 degrees, about five times the temperature of lava. Of course, there is a big difference in heat between the surface of the sun and the sun’s atmosphere.
  • 322,581 sharks. The sun’s atmosphere is 2 million degrees, about 200 times hotter than the surface. This is a huge mystery. One explanation is the frequent occurrence of nanoflares, which are small solar flares that are about one billionth the power of a full solar flare but still release the energy of a hydrogen bomb. These nanoflares belch heat into the sun’s atmosphere. 

Cephalofoil Wingspan

  • 0.9 meters (3 feet)
  • How many cephalofoil lengths go into the length of The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, also called Imola? 
  • Hint: Imola is an Italian motorway in the city of Imola, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. This week’s (May 21, 2023) scheduled grand prix was canceled because the region is experiencing catastrophic flooding. 
  • 5,368 cephalofoil. The track is 4.909 km (3.050 mi). 

Fast Facts about the Winghead Shark

Winghead sharks are found in shallow coastal waters throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Their diet consists of small bony fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods. 

A placenta connects the developing young to their mother, which keeps them alive to term. Winghead sharks are viviparous like the rest of their family. 

Females have a functional ovary and two functional uteri.

When the shark is pregnant with multiple baby sharks, her uterus has separate compartments for each baby.

Sharks near Mumbai mate during the monsoon season between July and August. Males usually bite the females on their sides as a prelude to mating. 

Females reproduce yearly and can have six to 25 pups, depending on their size. 

Gestation depends on location. It takes about 8 to 9 months for the babies to gestate off the coast of Western India and 10-11 months off the coast of Northern Australia. 

It’s generally considered harmless to humans, and the winghead shark is fished throughout its range for shark fin soup and other products.

This has contributed to population issues, and the IUCN considers them endangered. Its population is doing fine in Australian waters where it’s not fished.

Episode 280 – Bald Eagle: Warm Wings

“…and today we’re talking about what KJV onliest thinks ancient Hebrews made themselves bald as. But more on that later.”

To soar sorely is such a bore.

A raptor up high has a real chore.

Hunting for prey far down below,

Is a bald eagle’s typical M.O.

But how can they fly for so long,

Are their muscles really that tough and strong?

Or is it the rhythms of earth

That keeps them up–sailing the skies with mirth?

Flowing with convection is key

To flight in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 279 – Alligator Snapping Turtle: Follow Your Throat

“…and today we’re talking about the swamp’s angriest stone. But more on that later.”

As if you needed another reason not to go traipsing around the swamps of the American South, the alligator snapping turtle brings a few hundred pounds of armored power to the equation. But swamps aren’t really known for having crystal clear water, so how can you see where you’re going and, more importantly, where that hillbilly noodler’s toe is? It’s all about using your throat here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • So have you ever seen an alligator snapping turtle? They have a big ol’ head and a thick shell with three rows of scales on their back. 
  • Kinda like a dinosaur, right? But one way to tell them apart from regular snapping turtles is by the raised plates and spikes on their shell. 
  • They usually come in gray, brown, black, or olive-green, and they can get pretty slimy from all the algae they hang out with. 
  • Oh, and check out those yellow patterns around their eyes – helps them blend in with the environment. 
  • And get this – they even have fleshy “eyelashes” arranged in a star shape! How cool is that?

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.


  • 31.8 inches long
  • How many alligator snapping turtles go into the longest-ever alligator gar?
  • Hint: The alligator gar is a large fish with a jaw filled with sharp teeth. Though they are sizable and sharp-toothed, they rarely pose a threat to humans and only threaten anglers that try to land them in boats. In fact, there is no confirmed report of a gar intentionally going after a human. 
  • 3.1 turtles. The largest one on record was 8 feet 5 inches (256.54 cm). 


  • 176 pounds
  • How many alligator snapping turtles go into the biggest piece of candy?
  • Hint: The largest candy was a piece of butterscotch that was made in Norway in 1997 by the candy company Nidar.
  • 20 turtles. The butterscotch was 1.6 tonnes (3,527 lb).

Fast Facts

The alligator snapping turtle is mostly found in the freshwaters of the southeastern United States. It can be found from the Florida Panhandle to East Texas and as far north as southeastern Kansas, Missouri, southeastern Iowa, western Illinois, southern Indiana, western Kentucky, Louisiana, and western Tennessee. 

Only female turtles usually venture onto open land for nesting purposes. In most cases, they are found in bodies of water that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. They particularly like shady areas of water with tree canopy overhead.

There is a non-native invasive population in South Africa. Finally, a Floridian animal is invading somewhere else instead of vice versa. 

They are opportunistic carnivores that eat fish, mollusks, carrion, and amphibians, but it is also known to eat snakes, snails, worms and other invertebrates, crawfish, insects, water birds, aquatic plants, other turtles, small alligators, and human fingers if given the express opportunity. 

They will hunt actively during the night but become ambush predators during the day, attracting fish to their mouths with two worm-like protrusions on their tongues.

Major Fact: Always Follow Your Throat

The Alligator Snapping Turtle lives in pretty murky waters most of the time, so like many animals, it rarely relies on its eyes to find prey.

Outside of the springs in the center, I know that Florida isn’t really known for having crystal-clear water.

Most animals that can’t use their eyes smell with their noses instead, but that’s not much of an option underwater.

We’ve actually seen some interesting ways that animals find their way around murky water. The star-nosed mole breathes out a bubble and sucks it back in to smell underwater. The electric eel uses electricity. But the snapping turtle uses something called gular pumping.

This is like the buccal pumping that air-breathing fish like the snakehead or mudskipper do, but it involves basically vacuum pumping water into a Soviet throat prison called the gular. The snapping turtle has chemosensory organs inside their gulars, allowing them to detect nearby fish and tasty dead things to eat.

Other animals, like some lizards, do some good ol’ fashioned gular pumping, but that is to help them breathe. The snapping turtle will get a big gulp of water and say; I think there’s some swamp meat that way.

So the snapping turtle literally smells with its throat (we talked about a bird that breathes through its bones two weeks ago, and now we’re smelling with our throats. What’s next?)

Ending: So nestle into a swamp bed, stick your tongue out, and practice your gular pumping like the alligator snapping turtle here in LDT.

Episode 278 – Tiger: Specter of the Sundarbans

“…and today we’re talking about the specter of the Sundarbans. But more on that later.”

How can black and orange go unseen

In a place of vertical green?

The world’s most immense panthera

Can hide among the Themeda.

Though it likes meat held up by hooves

You may have a taste it approves.

It’s a gross thought and not so nice,

But please take this piece of advice:

Avoid tiger gastronomy,

In Life, Death, and Taxonomy

Episode 277 – Horned Screamer: Dem Bones

“…and today we’re talking about a bird that would make a terrible nickname. But more on that later.”

In the valley of the dry bones, God showed Ezekiel his power over life and death by breathing life into the long desiccated skeletons that lay there in the valley. But for birds, breathing life into your bones has a different connotation. The horned screamer has an extremely unique skeletal structure, even for a bird. But, to fly, you need to use every system you have available here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Horned Screamer

  • The horned screamer is a general ground-fowl shape with a chicken beak and stocky pheasant body.
  • They have black feathers with white bespeckled necks and breasts with white on their underside and legs.
  • They also have orange eyes.
  • As their name suggests, they have a horn (sort of)
    • Many birds have feather crests on the tops of their heads, but this horn isn’t made of feathers.
    • It’s actually attached to the skull. 

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! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FZKMvHE8fI 


  • 84–95 cm (33–37.5 in) long
  • How many horned screamers go into the length of a set of the largest Asian water buffalo horns point to point?
  • Hint: The largest Asian water buffalo (horn-wise) was measured in 1955. Asian water buffalo are native to India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Thailand. 
  • 4.4 screamers. The largest horns point to point were 4.24 m (13 feet, 10 inches).


  • 3.5 kg (7.7 lb)
  • How many screamers go into the weight of the largest scoop of ice cream?
  • Hint: The ice cream was scooped in Cedarburg, WI in 2014. It was strawberry flavored and actually had the Kemps cottage cheese company brand carved into it. 
  • 391 screamers scream for ice cream. The largest scoop was 3,010 lb (1,365.3 kg)

Fast Facts about the Horned Screamer

The horned screamer can be found in Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, French Guiana, Suriname, and Guyana. They prefer marshes with abundant vegetation and water plants.

Screamers are so named because they make a loud call like we heard earlier. In Ecuador it’s called “el clon-clon” because the repetition sounds like an echo. 

They nest in shallow water. They anchor floating vegetation in the shallows to create a water bead. They lay around three eggs at a time.

They aren’t extremely active and live life surrounded by their primary food source, which are water plants. 

Major Fact: Dem Bones

Most people are aware that birds have hollow bones. Do you know why?

Galileo described bird bones as hollow and lightweight in 1638. So everyone has figured that birds have hollow, brittle bones.

A bat researcher named Elizabeth Dumont from the University of Massachusets Amherst. It turns out that bird bones are heavier than those of other animals based on body weight.

The skeleton of a 2 oz bird is heavier than that of a 2 oz mouse. Turns out that bird bones are actually denser than other animal bones on average (density being how much mass is in the same volume of bone. So bird bones are smaller and thinner, but they’re actually just as strong if not stronger.

Bird bones aren’t exactly hollow, it’s not like their bones are open tubes – that wouldn’t be great for keeping your bones from breaking a lot.

Their bones are more honeycombed with large air pockets with walls running throughout. These are called pneumatized bones. According to the Montana Natural History Center, the air sacs in their bones might even help with oxygen intake and allow air to flow throughout the body more easily. 

One bird breath goes further and does more work than a mammal breath, according to the royal society for the protection of birds.

Their respiratory system even extends to their bones by adding more oxygen to the blood and helping them have more energy for flight.

It actually turns out that bird bones being hollow do help them fly, but not because they’re light, but because they’re like secondary lungs.

And not all their bones are “hollow”. Large soaring birds like eagles and vultures have more hollow bones than birds that dive. Usually the largest bones are hollow and smaller outer bones are solid.

Penguins, loons, and puffins actually don’t have any hollow bones. Not having a bunch of air trapped in your bones makes it easier to dive underwater – go figure. Emus and ostriches have hollow femurs, but obviously that doesn’t help them fly. It may help them regulate heat.

Horned screamers actually lack special rib prongs that almost every other bird in the world has. They have the most pneumatic bones out of any animal. Even their outer bones are hollow and filled with air pockets. Even their skin is filled with tiny air sacs. So the horned screamer makes a distinct crackling sound when it moves.

Ending: So scream your heart out, keep your cartilaginous proboscis thingies to yourself, and always remember to breathe through your bones like most birds but the horned screamer in particular.

Episode 276 – Aye Aye: Finger on the Pulse

“…and today we’re talking about a primate with its finger on the pulse of the forest. But more on that later.”

Once upon a drizzling Madagascar night, a small insect awoke, focusing his sight.

While nestled safe in his place of bamboo peace, a sound disturbed him and it would not cease.

All of a sudden there came a knock at the door. Who could it be at this hour of snores?

“Tis some visitor,” he said as he tucked back in. “You’d better stop this rude evening din!”

Just then, through a hole came a serpentine digit. It grabbed up the bug without a fidget.

The Aye Aye, without even being offered tea, ate well in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 275 – Cereal Leaf Beetle: Mobile Incubation

“…and today we’re talking about carb-eating beetles that scoff at the mere mention of the keto diet. But more on that later.”

Finding a solution to an invasive species is rarely an easy task. But when Americans’ cereal is at stake, it’s time for drastic action. The cereal leaf beetle is a serious problem for wheat crops in the U.S. and pesticides have produced middling results. So we needed a way to get rid of this munching monstrosity and if that means introducing a parasitic wasp to HR Geiger these pests out of existence. But sometimes you just find yourself an unsuspecting wasp nanny here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Description of the Cereal Leaf Beetle

  • Adult beetles are dark red with black to dark green wing coverings. 
  • They aren’t in the order Hemiptera, but they have the general style of true bugs, with long bodies, prominent antenna, armored wing covers.
  • They are a handsome insect.
  • Larvae look like a small brown raindrop, and often hang out on leaves. 
  • They are round-bodied with very tiny, barely visible legs.

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!


  • Adults and larvae are 5 mm long (0.19 inches.)
  • How many adult beetles go into the height of Mirabella wheat?
  • Hint: Mirabella wheat is an heirloom wheat plant that originated in ancient Italy. It’s among the tallest varieties of wheat in the world.
  • 442.1 beetles. Mirabella can grow 84 inches (213 cm) tall. 

Egg length

  • 0.9 mm long (0.03 inches)
  • How many cereal wheat eggs go into the size of a standard size shredded wheat biscuit?
  • Hint: Growing up, you may have been familiar with mini wheat, but the original shredded wheat came in large bricks of shredded wheat. You can get the original size today. Some people throw it on a skillet and fry it.
  • 112 eggs. Shredded wheat biscuits are four inches long. 

Fast Facts about the Cereal Leaf Beetles

The beetle is native to Europe and Asia, but it’s made its way into the United States, where it was first spotted in 1962.

The cereal leaf beetle is so named because it likes to eat cereal crops, which are oats, barley, and rye. 

They are migratory eaters. Which means that it eats on the go and if you see one on your barley, and return the next day it will be somewhere else in your field. 

If you find a beetle on your crops, don’t panic. They are often widely dispersed and don’t often congregate in feeding frenzies. This is because they avoid something called volatile organic compounds (or VOCs).

VOCs are released when an herbivore monches on a plant and female beetles are repelled by the presence of these chemicals. Why?

Because VOCs often attract predators; where someone is munching on a plant, you might find a tasty prey species. 

Female beetles are adapted to keep themselves and their offspring safe by avoiding eating in areas that have already been eaten in. Males are deterred by VOCs but not enough to change the way they eat. 

However, there are some situations when the beetles will frenzy. Fields of cereal leaf beetles might look ragged, but they rarely destroy plants completely. 

Sometimes they congregate in hot spots, which can affect crops. A high concentration of eggs in a field is that bad, because rain washes away and kills them before they hatch. A high concentration of hungry larvae can affect crop yields.

Major Fact: Put Your Egg in My Shoulder

  • So if you look up the cereal beetle, you’ll see it doesn’t get its name from its love for cookie crisp
  • It’s actually a pretty serious pest for cereal crops – wheat and grains and the like
  • People have tried everything to get rid of them since they do so much damage in their larval stage. 
  • But one thing they did in the US is what you should never do – introduce an invasive predator to deal with another invasive species
    • Worse yet, the predator they introduced was a wasp!
    • Even worse! It’s European
    • But this isn’t your typical order 66 -style extermination. It was much more insidious
  • The tetrastichus julis wasp in particular has a way of dealing with cereal beetles that makes me want to throw up just a little bit
  • Julis spends his winters underground and emerges in the spring on the hunt for some choice cereal.
  • Cereal beetle larva hang out on the plants their snacking on and, as we mentioned, even poop on themselves in order to disguise their bright colors.
  • But the female wasps cut through all the crap to lay their eggs inside newly hatched beetle larvae. 
    • The wasp eggs will hatch into larvae, transforming the beetle into a gross water balloon filled with tadpoles.
    • The beetle larva will still eat the plant its on, but its days are numbered. Soon, it will die on account of being absolutely filled to bursting with a teeming swarm of wasp larvae that just want to pupate.
    • When it dies, the beetle will fall to the soil and the wasps can pupate in peace (which is really just the American Dream).
    • The adult wasps will leave the corpse of their fallen nursery whenver they feel like it. Some may emerge in the summer and others wait until the following spring to begin the wholesome and uplifting cycle anew.

Ending: So smear poop on your back, eat your Wheaties, and try not to let foreigners lay eggs in your carapace like the cereal leaf beetle here in LDT.

Episode 274 – Common Rain Frog: Stuck Like Glue

“…and today we’re talking about a frog that sticks to its plans. But more on that later.”

For most creatures, finding a mate is a top priority–up there with getting a good meal. But the common rain frog is a funny shape that makes the mating season a bit awkward–and that shape is round. How can a pair of balloons come together to make smaller balloons? How can you hold your loved ones tight when you’ve got tiny little arms? Sometimes, sticking together is the best strategy in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 273 – Spider Decorator Crab: Master of Disguise

“…and today we’re talking about a crustacean that appears as if it comes pre-deep fried. But more on that later.”

The true master of disguise is able to use their environment to their advantage. Just like a cold war era Russian spy, you want to blend in with the locals if you want to avoid suspicion. The spider decorator crab always tries to keep up with the joneses when it rolls up to a new neighborhood. When there are a lot of hungry fish in the sea, it helps to blend in with the everyman and be a Krusty Krab like the best of them here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 272 – Salmon Shark: Omelets for Babies

“…and today we’re talking about an Alaskan with a taste for salmon, but I repeat myself. But more on that later.” 

As a mini me to its cousin the great white, the salmon shark seems like an adorable football-shaped friend in the sea. But these seven footers are no small fries. These sharks are born warriors and may be among the few true life long carnivores. Some fish are born lucky, but the salmon shark doesn’t need luck, and that’s what makes it strong, in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.