Ari Daniel ShapiroThe story of Earth's biodiversity from the Encylopedia of Life.

Lend an ear and discover the wonders of nature—right outside your back door and halfway around the world. In our new season of audio broadcasts, we’ll be learning about life as small as yeast and as big as a bowhead whale. Hear people's stories about nature and hone your backyard observation skills. We’ll be exploring the diversity of life—five minutes and One Species at a Time. Listen to us online, or download us and take us with you on your own exploration of the world around you. Brought to you by the Encyclopedia of Life and Atlantic Public Media.


The host and producer is Ari Daniel Shapiro. Jay Allison and Viki Merrick edit.

One Species at a Time, formerly the Podcast of Life, is heard every second Monday on WCAI: during Morning Edition at 8:30 and afternoons during All Things Considered at 5:30.

 


credit:  Kevin Karlson


Red Knot

Calidris canutus rufa

When the cod fishery collapsed in Newfoundland in the early 1990s, the hopes of the local fish harvesters collapsed with it. Hundreds of Newfoundlanders moved away and businesses that depended on the cod fishery closed. But retired schoolteacher Kit Ward of Portugal Cove South wasn’t content to watch her community vanish with the cod. She and some friends teamed up to find a solution that was right under their feet, in the reddish rocks of Mistaken Point.


Photo Credit:  Phoebe A. Cohen
 

Ediacaran Fossils: Extras

Here you will find intriguing extras: segments our producers weren't able to fit into a five-minute podcast as well as images, interesting facts and ways to get involved or in touch with biodiversity wherever you live.

Resources

Visit the Advent of Complex Life website to learn more about the environmental, ecological and genetic factors that lead to the evolution of complex life on earth. This project is part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Images

View photos from Ari’s trip to Mistaken Point in Newfoundland.

Photo Credit: Ari Daniel Shapiro

See a gallery of Ediacaran fossils at the Advent of Complex LifeDesk. LifeDesks are web environments that allow scientists to share biodiversity research and collaborate on classification—especially important with organisms as poorly understood at the Ediacaran fauna. You can learn more about the LifeDesks project and the EOL partner behind them at LifeDesks.org.

Audio

Can’t get enough of the Precambrian? Listen to our earlier podcast about the Ediacaran fauna. 

Facts

Trepassia wardae is named for its discoverer, Kit Ward’s son, Bradley. In 1956, on the other side of the Atlantic, a British teenager discovered a fossil of a different Precambrian creature called Charnia. (You can read Tina Negus’s account of her find here.) Charnia is found at Mistaken Point alongside Trepassia. Because central England and Newfoundland once were neighbors during the late Precambrian, Charnia is represented in fossil deposits on both sides of the ocean.

Other fossils known from Mistaken Point include frondlike animals from the genus Fractofusus and Thectardis, a cone-shaped mat-sticker, so-called because it stuck to the mat of microbes that covered the sea floor during the Precambrian.

Disk-shaped depressions visible in the fossil beds of Mistaken Point may represent holdfasts that allowed animals like Trepassia to grip the ancient seabed. Living animals that use holdfasts include feather stars, kelp and other algae, sea fans, and sponges.

Get more information on Ediacaran Fossils >


Photo credit: Phoebe A. Cohen


Ediacaran Fossils

Trepassia wardae 

When the cod fishery collapsed in Newfoundland in the early 1990s, the hopes of the local fish harvesters collapsed with it. Hundreds of Newfoundlanders moved away and businesses that depended on the cod fishery closed. But retired schoolteacher Kit Ward of Portugal Cove South wasn’t content to watch her community vanish with the cod. She and some friends teamed up to find a solution that was right under their feet, in the reddish rocks of Mistaken Point.


Photo Credit:  Phoebe A. Cohen
 

Ediacaran Fossils: Extras

Here you will find intriguing extras: segments our producers weren't able to fit into a five-minute podcast as well as images, interesting facts and ways to get involved or in touch with biodiversity wherever you live.

Resources

Visit the Advent of Complex Life website to learn more about the environmental, ecological and genetic factors that lead to the evolution of complex life on earth. This project is part of the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Images

View photos from Ari’s trip to Mistaken Point in Newfoundland.

Photo Credit: Ari Daniel Shapiro

See a gallery of Ediacaran fossils at the Advent of Complex LifeDesk. LifeDesks are web environments that allow scientists to share biodiversity research and collaborate on classification—especially important with organisms as poorly understood at the Ediacaran fauna. You can learn more about the LifeDesks project and the EOL partner behind them at LifeDesks.org.

Audio

Can’t get enough of the Precambrian? Listen to our earlier podcast about the Ediacaran fauna. 

Facts

Trepassia wardae is named for its discoverer, Kit Ward’s son, Bradley. In 1956, on the other side of the Atlantic, a British teenager discovered a fossil of a different Precambrian creature called Charnia. (You can read Tina Negus’s account of her find here.) Charnia is found at Mistaken Point alongside Trepassia. Because central England and Newfoundland once were neighbors during the late Precambrian, Charnia is represented in fossil deposits on both sides of the ocean.

Other fossils known from Mistaken Point include frondlike animals from the genus Fractofusus and Thectardis, a cone-shaped mat-sticker, so-called because it stuck to the mat of microbes that covered the sea floor during the Precambrian.

Disk-shaped depressions visible in the fossil beds of Mistaken Point may represent holdfasts that allowed animals like Trepassia to grip the ancient seabed. Living animals that use holdfasts include feather stars, kelp and other algae, sea fans, and sponges.

Get more information on Ediacaran Fossils >


Photo Credit: Martes martes, SD Lund, BioPix


Martens

Martes martes and Martes foina

On the forested mountain slopes of the Basque country, we follow two Spanish biologists on the track of a pair of secretive mammals. Pine and stone martens are elusive carnivores that make their homes among the moss-covered, ancient oaks, leaving few clues to their presence. Determining just how changes to the forest are affecting the two species requires some scientific detective work—and the willingness to gather some rather smelly data.


Photo Credit:  Martes martes, SD Lund, BioPix
 

Martens: Extras

Images

View a gallery of photos from Ari’s day in the Basque mountains:

 

Images courtesy of Ari Daniel Shapiro and Javier López de Luzuriaga

Video

Remember the four-hundred-year-old oak tree in the podcast, the one whose hollow trunk held fourteen people? We’ve posted a video of all those people climbing out of the giant oak.

Facts

Meet the family: Martens belong to the weasel family, or Mustelidae, a group of furbearing carnivores that includes ferrets, mink, weasels, wolverines, badgers, and both river and sea otters.

The European pine marten has two North American cousins, the Martes americana, also called a pine marten, and the larger fisher, Martes pennanti. There is also a nonnative population of stone martens in Wisconsin. Stone martens brought to Wisconsin to establish a private fur farm in the early 1970s escaped and established a small wild population.

The more adaptable stone marten often ventures into towns and cities in search of food and territory, sometimes denning in attics and barns—even the engine compartments of cars. Their territorial instinct may explain their well-known penchant for chewing on automobile engine cables and hoses.

Feces in the animal world is known by different names. Scat refers to the feces of wild carnivores. Other nouns are used to refer to the excrement of birds (droppings), cattle and elephants (dung), deer and elk (fewmets), seabirds and bats (guano), earthworms (castings), and insects (frass).

Participate

If you’ve had the good fortune of seeing an elusive creature near where you live, tell us about it or send us a photo at eol.org.

Try your hand at the online, stink-free scat identification challenge at eNature.com, or download the free Backyard Scat and Tracks app from the iTunes store. Want the real scoop on wildlife poop? Check to see whether your nearest state or national park offers ranger-led walks or training in scat collection for ongoing wildlife monitoring, such as the pika-scat project in Glacier National Park. Up-to-date listings of citizen science projects can be found at Science for Citizens.

Get more information on Martens >

 


Photo Credit:U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


Muskox

Ovibos Moschatus

There’s a chill in the air this week as we travel to a mountain range in Norway in search of muskoxen, Ice Age survivors that once roamed the far north alongside the woolly mammoth. Introduced to Norway from Greenland in the 1940s, muskoxen flourished on these cool, dry slopes until 2006, when the seemingly healthy animals began to die. Ari Daniel Shapiro investigates the muskox mystery.


Photo Credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
 

Muskox: Extras

Images

View a slide show of images from Ari’s trip to the mountainous terrain of Dovrefell, Norway.

Photo credit: Selina and Kjetil Våge

Visit our image gallery to see more images of Muskoxen

Audio

Listen to Norwegian ranger Tord Bretten relate his close encounter with a musk ox.

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Facts

When threatened, muskoxen will form a tight circle, their massive, horned heads facing outwards. This communal defense is effective against their main predators, wolves and bears. Learn more

Musk oxen use vocalizations to communicate within and between herds. Their various bleats, roars, and rumbles can cover long distances. Males also use their famous odiferous musk to mark territory. Learn more

The underwool of the musk ox, known as qiviut (pronounced "kiv-ee-Ute"), is finer than cashmere and eight times warmer than sheep’s wool. Learn more

Meet the family: musk oxen are members of the Arteriodactyls, the even-toed ungulates—cud-chewing grazers with cloven hoofs. Members of this group range in size from the Lesser Mouse Deer to the Hippopotamus.

Citizen Science Connections

Follow the blog of the Muskox Project, an initiative of the nonprofit group Photographers for Conservation, working to raise awareness of muskoxen in Scandinavia.

Get more information on Muskox >

 


Marine Iguana

Amblyrhynchus cristatus

No iguana wants to be cooked alive on a hot rock and then served up as dinner for a Galapagos hawk. But it turns out the marine iguanas have a strategy that warns them of the presence of hawks they can’t see. They learned to tune in to a kind of police scanner… the alarm calls of mockingbirds.


Photo Credit: Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan
 

Marine Iguana: Extras

Images

Photo Credit: Phil Myers, Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan Animal Diversity WebPhoto Credit: C.Drange, BioPix.comPhoto Credit: Petr Baum BioLib.czGalapagos Mockingbird, Photo Credit: Petr Baum, BioLib.czHawk and Iguana, Photo Credit: Martin Wikelski, Princeton UniversityHawk and Marine Iguana Female,Photo Credit: Martin Wikelski, Princeton University

Click on the thumbnails to see larger images.

Audio extras

Hear how marine iguanas may actually shrink, absorbing some of their bones to better survive lean times during an El Niño. Researcher Michael Romero from Tufts University explains.

 

Listen to iguana researcher Maren Vitousek explain how she pursued her love of science and nature as a child by running a kind of Insect Olympics.

 

Species Information

Learn more about species you heard about in the podcast on the Encyclopedia of Life species pages:

Marine Iguanas, Amblyrhynchus cristatus
Galapagos Mockingbirds, Nesomimus parvulus 
Galapagos Hawk, Buteo galapagoensis

Marine Iguanas, Amblyrhynchus cristatus

Galapagos Mockingbirds, Nesomimus parvulus 

Galapagos Hawk, Buteo galapagoensis

Fun Facts:

Watch videos of marine iguanas hatching, swimming, feeding, and more at www.arkive.org. 

Ancestors of the Galapagos iguanas probably reached the islands millions of years ago, after floating on a log or other debris from South America. Marine iguanas get rid of excess salt by blowing it out of glands near their noses. These salty sneezes can make the faces of the dark lizards appear white.

Researchers are using DNA from mockingbirds collected by Charles Darwin to guide the reintroduction of mockingbirds to the island of Floreana in the Galapagos. Read more here.

Get more information on Marine Iguanas >

 

Photo: G Drange, Biopix


Branch-tip Spiders

Dictyna

The hills near Missoula, Montana, are changing, as native grasses and other plants are increasingly squeezed out by nonnative plants. Knapweed, cinquefoil, and other weeds aren’t only changing the look of this ecosystem, but its very structure. As ecologist Dean Pearson’s research has shown, however, some species are benefitting from the changed habitat in unexpected ways. You just have to look closely to see them.

 
Photo Credit: G Drange, Biopix
 

Branch-tip Spiders: Extras

Images

Explore a slide show of pictures of Branch-tip Spiders and their habitat.

 

Facts

These mesh-web spiders are also known as “branch-tip spiders” because they often choose the ends of branches as spots to build their distinctive webs. See an image of Dictyna pyramid-shaped web at the Forest Service website. The pyramid shape of the Dictyna web is only one of many silken shapes spiders spin to catch their prey. View a gallery of other web shapes in the EOL Flickr Group.

Both these Dictyna spiders possess a special silk-spinning structure called the cribellum, flat spinning plate covered with hundreds of spinnerets, the jets that shoot out liquid silk. Spiders with a cribellum produce unsual, “woolly” silk, ideal for trapping insects’ legs. See some great images here.

Meet the invaders: learn more about the nonnative plants that are changing Dean Pearson’s Montana grasslands—and causing a spider population explosion. Explore the species pages for sulphur cinquefoil, spotted knapweed, and wolf’s milk spurge.

Citizen Science Connections

In Glacier National Park in Montana, the Noxious Weeds Citizen Science Project needs volunteers to document the presence or absence of five noxious weeds along 700-plus miles of hiking trails to determine the distribution and extent of noxious weeds invading the park.

Get more information on Branch-tip Spiders >

 


 

Photo: Alvaro Migotto


Box Jellyfish

Cubozoa

Learn how three fiery, painful stings during an early morning swim in Hawaii changed the life of researcher Angel Yanagihara. Once the young biochemist had recovered from her box jelly encounter, Carybdea alata had her full attention. Now she works to unlock the secrets of venom of these beautiful, and sometimes dangerous, angels of the sea.

 
Photo Credit: Alvaro Migotto
 

Box Jellyfish: Extras

Box Jellyfish belong to the class Cubozoa and the genus Carybdea. Find out more at the Encyclopedia of Life


Box Jellyfish Dance Contest

Thanks for all who contributed! Watch the videos and submit your own!


Images

Click here to check out great photos of box jellyfish!

Cool facts

Carybdea alata is a strong swimmer, reaching speeds up to 10 knots—about 11.5 miles per hour. That’s twice the human swimming record of just over 5 mph.

As a group, box jellies of the class Cubozoa are responsible for more human envenomations than any other animal, including snakes.

A group of box jellies is called a fluther, or smack.

Video Links

See amazing video of the box jelly's sting in action.

Yanagihara’s equipment in the field includes a wetsuit, boogie board, and a bucket. See how she puts them to use in this video clip:

(Courtesy of of the Pacific Cnidaria Research Lab at the University of Hawaii Manoa)

Get more information on Box Jellyfish >

 



Riftia

Riftia pachyptila

Host Ari Daniel Shapiro dives deep to discover a white worm as tall as your refrigerator that breathes through bright red feathery “lips.” This isn’t a creature from outer space. Meet Riftia, a tube worm that lives in deep-sea vents, and learn the surprising lessons this denizen of the abyss is teaching scientists about life on Earth.

 
Photo Credit: Vicki Ferrini, Marvin Lilley
 

Riftia: Extras

Images:

Audio extras:

Most of the creatures that share the planet with us are unknown and unnamed, and there are five billion of them in every teaspoon of soil or water—they’re even inside us. Researcher Colleen Cavanaugh explains.

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Heard of CSI, Crime Scene Investigation? Well, Colleen Cavanaugh has plans for MSI—Microbial Science Investigators, where the good microbes are the heroes.

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Cool facts:

Fully grown Riftia are tubes made of chitin, the same tough substance found in the exoskeletons of insects and crustaceans and the “beak” of the octopus. Learn more on EOL

Riftia larvae drift searching for a home. When they detect the right chemicals in the water, they settle down on a patch of cooled lava and form a new tube worm colony. Learn more on EOL

Instead of a gut, vent worms have a sac called a trophosome. The trophosome is home to the billions of sulfur-eating bacteria that provide the vent worm with its nourishment. Learn more on EOL

Vent worms and other fauna found at hydrothermal vents flourish in water temperatures that are hot enough to meld lead!

Riftia links:

Travel with the submersible Alvin on a virtual dive to a black smoker. You’ll learn how scientists think vents might form and discover how Alvin navigates under water.

Visit these links to learn more about Riftia’s amazing habitat, the deep-sea oases known as “black smokers.”

Learn how the world’s deepest hydrothermal vent was discovered in April 2010, three miles down in the Cayman Trough in the Caribbean. Read the expedition blog of the researchers on board the RRS James Cook.

Try your hand at the hydrothermal vent crossword at the American Museum of Natural History’s extensive Black Smoker website.

Read more about it:

Diving to a Deep-Sea Volcano (Scientists in the Field) by Kenneth Mallory, Houghton Mifflin, 2006.

The Octopus’s Garden: Hydrothermal Vents and Other Mysteries of the Deep Sea by Cindy Lee van Dover, Helix Books, 1996.

Get more information on Riftia >

 



Sea Slugs

Elysia chlorotica

Come one, come all! See the amazing, the astonishing, half-animal, half-plant! Journey to Tampa Bay, Florida, where scientist Skip Pierce and one of his students first made a remarkable discovery twenty years ago. Meet Elysia chlorotica, a bright green, solar-powered, algae-slurping sea slug that’s still turning our understanding of the classification of life upside down.

 
 

Sea Slugs: Extras

Here you will find intriguing extras: segments our producers weren't able to fit into a five-minute podcast as well as images, interesting facts and ways to get involved or in touch with biodiversity wherever you live.

Audio

Hear how Skip Pierce captures the sea slugs he needs in his lab. 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

 

Images

Solar-Powered Sea Slugs

While Elysia chlorotica is the only sea slug thus far known to copy actual algal genes into its own DNA, other sea slugs have evolved to use algal chloroplasts for an energy boost. Here is a gallery of a few other "kleptoplasts" and the ways they manage to harness living solar cells for their own use.

Placida dendritica

Spanish tenor (Placida dendritica),Credit: Ian Skipworth, Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk

This sea slug retains photosynthetically active chloroplasts from the algae on which it feeds within the cells of its digestive tract. Photo Credit: Ian Skipworth, Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk.

Pteraeolidia ianthina

Pteraeolidia ianthina, Credit: David Burdick NOAA Photo Library

Pteraeolidia ianthina is a common nudibranch that feeds on hydroids, or sea jellies. Brown and green pigments are due to the presence of symbiotic algae from the sea jellies which continue to photosynthesize within the sea slug's body. This nudibranch "farms" these chloroplasts from its hydroid prey in special folds of its digestive tract. Photo Credit: David Burdick , NOAA Photo Library

Plakobranchus ocellatus

Plakobranchus ocellatus,Angel Valdés  Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk

This sea slug ingests chloroplasts from the algae it eats and retains them within specialized cells of its digestive tract. Ingested chloroplasts continued to photosynthesize as long as 335 days--the longest record of chloroplast activity in any tested sacoglossan sea slug.

Get more information on Sea Slugs >

 


Photo Credit: Acrocynus, Wikimedia Commons


Insects of Costa Rica

 

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