The eye-popping colors and designs on butterfly wings are not just for show, but are an important adaptation that helps the insects fend off predators. Some butterflies have wings containing toxins, signaling danger to birds and other hungry hunters. Others fold their wings for camouflage or flutter them so the colors confuse birds giving chase. Listen to hear an insect scientist explain more about the amazing ways butterflies’ colorful wings help them survive.
Current Event February 26, 2020
A beloved elephant in Kenya has died. Tim was one of the few remaining “tuskers,” elephants with big, fully developed tusks. His dramatic good looks and willingness to pose beautifully for wildlife photographers made Tim an international celebrity. He lived a long life and died of natural causes, a surprising fact since many African elephants are poached, or killed illegally, for their tusks when they are young. Listen to learn why local farmers feared Tim and how wildlife scientists helped them learn to appreciate him.
Current Event February 24, 2020
Where did the new coronavirus start? Scientists believe the highly contagious virus spreading quickly among humans probably originated with bats. Bats’ amazing immune systems allow them to carry viruses without getting sick themselves. Just as with past viral outbreaks like SARS and MERS, scientists believe bats infected other animals with coronavirus, and those animals then passed it to humans. Listen to learn more about the origin of coronavirus and why scientists believe studying bats could unlock secrets about fighting disease.
This audio story was recorded in early February. The news about COVID-19 is changing rapidly and parts of this story may be dated.
Pollinators are animals that help plants reproduce by carrying pollen from one flower to another. Many plants that benefit from the help of pollinators bear fruit or nuts, providing healthy foods for people and other animals to eat. A variety of pollinators carry powdery pollen on their bodies from one flower to another, but bees are pollination superstars. Bees live in well-organized colonies and work quickly and productively. Their populations are in decline, however, and scientists are trying to understand why. Listen to hear how queen bees keep hives running smoothly and learn what can be done to help bees survive.
Current Event February 5, 2020
Scientists have developed a new, more accurate way to count a dog’s age in human years. Until now, people have generally believed that one year in a dog’s life equals seven years of human life. But when scientists compared chemical marks on dog and human DNA to see where they matched, they found surprising results about the relationship between dog and human ages. Listen to hear a scientist explain how the new technique works and what the research on canine aging means for dogs and their human friends.
Australia is full of diverse and unusual animal life. It is home to hundreds of different species of marsupials, which are mammals that carry their babies in pouches, along with deadly snakes, spiders, and jellyfish. Listen to hear a story about exploring the Australian outback and learn about the unique adaptations and appearances of the animals living there.
Current Event January 8, 2020
A man recently received a shocking phone call: a shelter had found his beloved lost cat, Sasha. Five years had passed since Sasha’s owners had last seen him, and Sasha was over a thousand miles from his home in Portland. No one is quite sure how, but Sasha made his way from Portland, Oregon to Santa Fe, New Mexico safely and survived without his owners for all that time. Listen to learn more about Sasha’s story and find out what happened when he returned home.
Current Event January 2, 2020
A Pennsylvania animal shelter put up a horse and a goose for adoption – together. That is because, as best friends, the members of this unlikely duo cannot bear to be apart. Listen to hear a surprising story of friendship between two animals from different species and learn how their bond developed.
Update: Since this story first aired, the pair has been adopted.
Current Event December 17, 2019
An electric eel is lighting up a Christmas tree at the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. The eel, named Miguel Wattson, emits pulses of electricity that cause the lights to flicker and blink. Visitors are delighted, and the aquarium hopes they gain a new appreciation for the species. Listen to learn how Miguel’s meals affect the brightness of the tree lights and what his Twitter followers are seeing.
Frogs are well adapted to their environment. They absorb water and oxygen through their skin which allows them to eat and breathe underwater. They are powerful jumpers and good hunters. But perhaps their most unusual adaptation is metamorphosis, the process of changing from tadpole to frog. Metamorphosis helps frogs live successfully in both wet and semi-dry environments, vary their diets, and avoid predators. Listen to hear an animal scientist explain how metamorphosis helps frogs survive, and why they eat their own tails in the process.
A variety of adaptations help animals survive the winter, when temperatures drop and food is scarce. Some migrate, some change how they eat and find ways to stay warm, and some hibernate, essentially going to sleep for many months. Listen to learn about how different animals adapt to the changing seasons and find out what happens when bears hibernate.
Animals have adapted to their environments in a wide variety of ways and developed a range of survival strategies. This audio story highlights a selection of interesting animal ”superpowers,” many of which offer ecological advantages to both predators and prey. Listen to hear about the difference between poison and venom and learn how two particularly lethal creatures compare: the box jellyfish and the golden poison frog.
Current Event December 11, 2019
Trained dogs regularly report for duty at police stations and military agencies throughout the country. These obedient animals loyally serve their human handlers, often assisting with difficult, dangerous tasks. But what happens to police dogs when they retire? Texas lawmakers recently settled this question when they voted to amend their state constitution. Listen to learn what they decided and how the new law will affect Texas police dogs who have completed their service.