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February 14, 2024 42 mins

I dragged my husband on the show to talk about animals who give romantic gifts, like dead voles and nutritional secretions! Hope he takes the hint! 

Guest: Brett McCully

Footnotes: https://docs.google.com/document/d/17Kn459lVK4NKOeLYcUM47R-EWo4RX6tgwp0cTvQBPFs/edit?usp=sharing

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:07):
Welcome to Creature feature production of iHeartRadio. I'm your host
of Many Parasites, Katie Golden. I studied psychology and evolutionary biology,
and today on the show Happy Valentine's Day. Today we're
talking gift giving for romance.

Speaker 2 (00:22):
All the boxes of chocolates and dead.

Speaker 1 (00:24):
Flies that animals give each other to woo their crush.
Discover this and more as we answer the age old
question is cyanide a. Girl's best friend joining me today
is economist and professional at being my husband, Brett mccaullay.

Speaker 3 (00:41):
Welcome, Hey, honey.

Speaker 1 (00:43):
Hi, Hi honey, thanks for coming all the way upstairs
to be on this podcast.

Speaker 3 (00:49):
Yeah, thanks for having me all the way upstairs.

Speaker 1 (00:54):
I felt like a really good Valentine's Day gift to
you is to make you perform free labor on my podcast.

Speaker 3 (01:02):
That's fair.

Speaker 1 (01:03):
Not only is this an episode about, you know, romantic
gift giving, which is a huge hint to you, by
the way, because anyways, just pay attention to the lessons
and themes in this episode, but it is you know,
you are an economist, and this is sort of about
the dark side of gift giving, the idea that gift

(01:27):
giving is not always done just out of the pureness
and goodness of your heart, which you know. I guess like,
if you're very cynical about Valentine's Day, you might feel
the same way where people are giving gifts to each other,
but you might think it is just sort of all
superficial in order to kind of play into some sort

(01:48):
of mass market on Valentine's Day. But I don't know
what is your opinion of gift giving on Valentine's Day?
And think extremely carefully before you answer this.

Speaker 3 (02:00):
Yeah, it's cool, I dig it. But I can also
tell you what the economics community thinks of gift giving.

Speaker 2 (02:09):
Oh, I'm very interested to hear.

Speaker 3 (02:11):
Well. So there's there's a couple of different views. And
and really even you mentioned the dark side of gift giving,
it's kind of that is maybe the mainstream view, at
least for some. Here's a quote from Joel Waldfogel, who
wrote about the dead weight loss of Christmas. He says
that buying gifts typically destroys value and can only in

(02:33):
the unlikely best special case, be as good as giving cash. Wow,
So actually my community is telling me to give you
cash for Valentine today. So I hope you're you're excited
for some cash.

Speaker 1 (02:46):
No fat stacks of cash. I'll never say no to
fat sacks of cash.

Speaker 2 (02:49):
You know this well enough. But I think even more
than that.

Speaker 1 (02:56):
I would like fat stacks of dead flies and other
to try to us. So we are talking about nuptial
gifts today, which I feel like is very you know again,
just pay attention to all the lessons that are to
be learned from this.

Speaker 3 (03:15):
Like dead flies.

Speaker 2 (03:17):
Uh yeah, dead flies?

Speaker 3 (03:19):
Is that why you allow all the spider webs to
remain here?

Speaker 2 (03:22):
This is a this is unfair.

Speaker 1 (03:24):
This is a cheap shot because he gets to actually
be in my recording studio. Normally, the guests get a
very specific view of my recording studio through zoom, and
he gets to see all the spider webs up ahead
and dead flies being collected in them. It's actually really
fun though, because sometimes I get to see them catch
a fly and it's like free, free entertainment, free theater.

(03:47):
So this is my advice to you do not clean
up your spider webs. Keep them there, and then you've
got twenty four to seven WWEE spider wrestling that you
can watch. But yeah, anyway, so we are talking about
nuptial gifts. So nuptial gifts are given by a variety
of insects and arthropods to their mate, generally by a

(04:09):
male to the female. Sorry that arthropods are indeed sexist,
but the point is to help increase the success of copulation,
either by encouraging the female to mate or giving her
more patience to sit around while the male does this thing,
or so she doesn't attack the male. Less number one.

Speaker 3 (04:32):
Okay, so you're saying you might attack me if I
don't give you no, of course.

Speaker 1 (04:36):
Not anyways, there are different types of nuptial gifts that
vary by species. So some give dead insects like I mentioned.
Some even give dead insects wrapped in silk. Gift wrapping
very important. Less number two. Some give globs of nutritional saliva.

Speaker 2 (04:54):
No comment.

Speaker 1 (04:54):
Some give a spermatophor, which is basically a sperm packet.
So inside the sperm packet is sperm, but the envelope
is actually edible and nutritional. I'm I don't I don't
want any comments from you right now. So the male
attaches the spermataphor to the female's genitals and the female

(05:16):
eats the envelope while the sperm is essentially turkey base
basted into her genital opening.

Speaker 2 (05:23):
You know, well, you know, I.

Speaker 1 (05:25):
Mean these are these are insects. They don't they don't
have our sense of you know, romance, especially so some insects,
such as tree crickets, directly consume nutritional secretions that the
male provides on his back during copulation.

Speaker 2 (05:45):
What what didn't you like? Did you not like the.

Speaker 1 (05:48):
Word nutritional secretions or was it the word tree crickets?

Speaker 3 (05:53):
No, tree crickets is fine, but everything else that you
just said was pretty distasteful. I mean, way to get
us into the mood for Valentine's Day.

Speaker 1 (06:02):
I feel like I think on our first date, I
started talking to you about parasites, so you knew what you.

Speaker 2 (06:09):
Were getting into.

Speaker 3 (06:11):
You can't that's fair.

Speaker 1 (06:12):
You can't say falsely advertised what this was going to
be like for the rest of your life.

Speaker 3 (06:19):
By the way, to the audience, it really is Valentine's Day,
Like this is a going to rest this episode out
and then you know, so we are this is our celebration.

Speaker 1 (06:30):
Yeah, he's uh. I literally dragged him up here Valentine's
Day morning and was like, surprise, here's your gift helping
me with my podcast. Now I got him an actual gift,
but I can't tell you because he's right here.

Speaker 3 (06:46):
Yeah, I'm getting some indications that the actual gift is
not going to be to my life.

Speaker 1 (06:53):
So ground crickets actually get a little bit Twilight Vampire
with their romance.

Speaker 2 (07:00):
Have you seen Twilight?

Speaker 3 (07:01):
Yeah?

Speaker 1 (07:02):
You know that doesn't sound like you've actually seen it.
I have, look, I have not seen or read.

Speaker 3 (07:07):
Oh come on, Twilight. I distinctly remember the scene where
Bella was shown her her dad's house and she sulkily says,
one bathroom.

Speaker 2 (07:18):
Oh wow, so you have.

Speaker 3 (07:20):
To she has to share it with her her step
to dad whatever it is?

Speaker 1 (07:24):
Right? Yeah, No, that that the tracks with the theme
of the movie, which is that if you date a vampire,
you get more bathrooms. Yeah. So these ground crickets get
a little bit of a little bit Twilight Vampire with
their romance because the males will offer some of their
blood to consume during mating. Isn't that a thing in

(07:48):
Twilight where he like gets like Bella gets turned into
a vampire by like drinking the bodily secretions of Edward.

Speaker 3 (07:57):
There you are with bodily secretions.

Speaker 1 (07:59):
I'm you know, it's a biology podcast, Honey, We've got
to say nutritional secretions at least five times.

Speaker 3 (08:07):
Okay, that's great, Okay, but in any case, I don't
I did not get that far in Twilight. But that
makes sense. By like the third or the fourth book,
you just have to, like the rest of the romance
has run its course, and you just have to do
something crazy like turn Bella into a vampire.

Speaker 1 (08:23):
Right, I think, like, like I've actually so despite not
having watched the movies or read the books, I have
read things about Twilight quite a bit because I find
it really fascinating. And I think also like they have
a baby, but I don't understand like if the baby
is a vampire. Like I don't really understand vampire biology,

(08:47):
like whether it's like genetic or like whether you have
to like it's if it's like some kind of like
thing where you have to consume the blood of other
vampires or they have to like bite you, Like did
they have to bite their own baby? Maybe I don't really.

Speaker 3 (09:01):
Know exactly, but yeah, the vampires cannot reproduce on their
own they except by turning another living human into a vampire.
They cannot reproduce in the regular human way you're.

Speaker 1 (09:14):
Thinking about nose feratus. These are sexy vampires and they
live by different rules than the nose faratu rules. I see,
because like nose feratus, I'm pretty sure nos feratus uh
don't can't reproduce because like they're basically everything's all withered
down there.

Speaker 3 (09:34):
They have no more secretions.

Speaker 1 (09:36):
They have no more secretions going on exactly. Anyways, back
to actual biologies. So, nuptial gifts are not always like
a sweet gesture, right, Sometimes they are like mutually beneficial
to the male and the female and so like in
terms of like arthropods, I guess that's as close to
a romantic sweet gesture as you can get. But some

(09:58):
nuptial gifts actually decreats the female's overall fitness in exchange
for a more successful short term mating or reproductive success,
which would primarily benefit the male who is passing on
his DNA, but not the female in terms of her
lifetime reproduction. These are called media gifts, after the Greek

(10:18):
myth of media. So Medea was the wife to Jason
who had so Jason decides to abandon Medea for a
new wife who is like the daughter of a king,
and so media sends poisoned gifts to the new wife,
which is apparently a dress and a tiara covered in poison,

(10:41):
which like why, I don't really understand how ancient poisons work,
but like as soon as you pick up a dress,
wouldn't you be like, wow, this is like soaking in poison.
I don't exactly know how you poison address.

Speaker 3 (10:55):
Well, maybe you misinterpreted it as one of the secretions.

Speaker 1 (11:00):
You're like, ooh, addressed with secretions my favorite kind.

Speaker 3 (11:03):
Yeah, well I think that's what you're trying to tell
me here. Yeah, secretions are sexy.

Speaker 1 (11:07):
Yeah, I'm getting nutritional secretions for my gift. I can
already tell so. Uh. Sometimes in it like there are
of course the insects and arthropods that will give like
these gifts usually like it's not like a poison that
like kills the female, but it's like it's something that

(11:27):
like it could be like a spermatophoor envelope or something
that that will increase her short term fitness but actually
decrease her long term fitness. So it's like cocaine exactly,
like cocaine or meth or meth exactly that that's uh,
it's the gift that keeps on giving or not. Actually,
I just said it doesn't.

Speaker 3 (11:47):
So I'm getting some some good ideas for my gift.

Speaker 1 (11:52):
So sometimes males give worthless gifts to females as a
deception to improve mating chances while not spending the cost
or effort to give a real gift. So this happens
in the spider Pisara mirabilis, which is a small brown
spider found all over Europe. It doesn't look very interesting,
but it has a very interesting behavior. So the males

(12:14):
typically wrap up a dead insect for the female, offer
it to her as a gift, and while she's busy
like unwrapping, they you know, they get busy with their
mating business and it gives the female more patience for
the male to mate and that increases the success of
their mating. But sometimes some of these males in this
species will wrap up just nothing and offer this empty package,

(12:38):
this empty wrapped silk package to the female and hopes
for the best, and this actually does improve mating chances
versus no gift giving. But the female will typically when
she opens it up and she's like, hey, wait a minute,
there's nothing in there, that's it mating over.

Speaker 3 (12:56):
But it's silk. What else does she want?

Speaker 1 (13:00):
She wants a dead juicy insect. Oh, I see, it's
all about the It's all about the secretion cent Very well,
we are going to take a quick break while I
try to get Brett used to the word secretions so we.

Speaker 2 (13:16):
Can continue the podcast like adults.

Speaker 1 (13:18):
But when we return, we are going to talk about
a very metal romance, Okatie.

Speaker 3 (13:25):
There's another point of view from economists, this one from
Greg Manke, which suggests that gift giving is a way
of signaling private information to one's partner. So the private
information is your love or devotion to your partner, and
because gift giving is costly, you have to go all
the time to find an appropriate gift that's very well

(13:47):
suited to your partner. And that then, uh, it's it's
a signal to your partner that oh he really he
or she or they really does love me, and you know,
so it's kind of a signal of love or devotion.
Does that type of signaling also exist in the animal kingdom?

Speaker 1 (14:07):
I mean yeah, So it's really interesting because this happens
in birds species, especially where you have when you have
parents who like there are a lot of birds that
form these long term monogamous pairs. They sometimes form it
just over one breeding season, but some form it over
an entire lifetime. And the cost is high if you

(14:32):
mate with someone who will just give up and abandon you,
because in a lot of for a lot of birds,
sometimes you need both parents to be not only like
helping guard the nest, but also providing food. Like some birds,
like you'll have one partner sitting on the egg and
the other partner has to go out and find food.

(14:54):
And you see this from any anything from penguins to
two cans, like this is very common or you you
really have to have this exchange of like this, This
male or even both parents has.

Speaker 2 (15:08):
To be really devoted.

Speaker 1 (15:09):
Otherwise you're screwed because like you've you've paired off and
then if you have you lay your egg and then
your partner just goes like, well whatever, I don't care
anymore and goes and hunts for himself and then doesn't
like return to you. You could die or your your
chicks could die.

Speaker 2 (15:26):
So it's very important to.

Speaker 1 (15:28):
Show the devotion the effort that this this partner is
going to put effort into the relationship and really is
invested in the relationship, otherwise you could be really screwed.

Speaker 2 (15:42):
Down the line.

Speaker 1 (15:44):
And then also you see this it's often like where
the female has to be choosy, like like the typical
kind of thing is like the female has more to
lose in these situations than the male. But there are
a lot of species where both the male and female
have to equally participate in the rearing of offspring, and

(16:04):
so in those cases you actually often see like mating
rituals where both the female male are trying to impress
each other because they both are equally invested, they will
often have a This is actually very common in seabirds
because what will happen with them is you'll have one
parent sitting on the nest and guarding the either the

(16:24):
eggs or the chicks, and then the other parent off
hunting for fish or whatever, and that one has to come.

Speaker 2 (16:31):
Back and they will switch off rolls, so.

Speaker 1 (16:33):
Like one will hunt one day and find fish and
the other day the other one will go off. So
then they really both need to be equally impressive, and
so they'll have courtship rituals where they're both trying to
impress each other also in those species the sexual dimorphism,
meaning like one bird looks like usually female birds look
kind of drab and the males are really fancy and pretty.

(16:55):
In these species like puffins and other kinds of seabirds.

Speaker 2 (16:58):
Like ox like, they both as like the same.

Speaker 1 (17:00):
It's hard to tell the difference between males and females.

Speaker 3 (17:03):
But why do you why do you think this behavior
is specific to seabirds, Like, is it is it something
about the extremity of the environment that like, I mean especially, well,
are puffins in the Arctic or is this just like.

Speaker 1 (17:17):
Yeah, they're in the Arctic circle puffins.

Speaker 3 (17:19):
Right, So so then you know if it's if it's
it's a really extreme environment, and so then you really
really need the investment of both parents to guarantee survival.
Is that is that very reasonable?

Speaker 2 (17:31):
Yeah? Yeah, I think so, I mean, so you do.
It's not only.

Speaker 1 (17:34):
Seabirds that that this happens, Like, there are other birds
where they're both uh uh, you know, pretty much equally invested.
I mean in sometimes sometimes it's like sort of uh like,
so for instance, with two cans, what's interesting about that
is they live in an environment where there's a lot

(17:55):
of snakes, a lot of egg eating predators, and so
you have the female who seals herself up in a
basically a hollow of a tree and uses like mud
and feces to create like a door. I'm sorry, we
always have to come back to feces on this podcast
and secretions of some kind.

Speaker 2 (18:14):
But then so she's she's essentially.

Speaker 1 (18:17):
Locked herself in the tree hollow, and the male, if
he at all wants this egg to survive, has to
provide her constantly with food. And so even though the female,
it seems like the female is risking more because she's
like in the hollow of a tree, and to a
certain extent, that's true. She can't. She could if she

(18:37):
wanted to break out and like abandon the egg, and
then the male's reproduction success would be screwed. Or the
male if he just decides, I don't want to be
feeding food to this tree anymore, like he would screw
her chance of reproductive success. So they both have to
like essentially be equally invested in the survival of this

(19:00):
offspring for this to work. And so they they actually
look very similar in terms of their there's not a
lot of sexual dimorphism, and so, like with with seabirds,
I would say, like puffins with with these arcs albatrosses. Yeah,
like they have to leave the nesting area, which like

(19:26):
is not usually usually the nesting area does not have
a lot of food because it's like going to be
like on an island or something where you have like
these rocky outcroppings and then the birds leave to go
to the ocean to fish, and so you have you
really have to go kind of long distances to get
your food.

Speaker 4 (19:46):
And but so it's kind of a function of the
extremity of the environment because if it's like the jungle,
then the food is like is all around you, let's say,
whereas in the Arctic it is.

Speaker 3 (19:58):
Probably far away, right.

Speaker 1 (20:00):
And then the example that I gave of the two
cans in the jungle, the reason that the environment is
extreme is because of the amount of danger to your
egg that like snakes and other predators present, and so
like the it's not so much that it's super hard
to find food, but that the female has to seal
herself into this tree to protect her eggs from snakes.

(20:22):
So yeah, I think like the extremity of the environment
definitely does play into that kind of like both parents
have to basically invest versus say systems where the male
is trying to mate with as many females as possible
and the females are trying.

Speaker 2 (20:37):
To select the best males.

Speaker 1 (20:41):
But so now we're actually going to talk about another bird,
because sometimes romance involves just like a lot of horrifying impaling. So, like,
the great gray shrike is a cute gray and black
song bird, only about as like long as a piece

(21:03):
of printer paper, weighs around two ounces. It's actually pretty cute.

Speaker 2 (21:06):
It's got like a little like.

Speaker 1 (21:08):
Black eye mask, but essentially it just looks like kind
of a regular bird. It's not very impressive looking. It's cute.
It's a nice looking bird, but you know, normal looking,
and it lives throughout Eurasia and North Africa.

Speaker 2 (21:23):
It has a variety of nicknames.

Speaker 1 (21:24):
It has verkan Vogel, which means choking bird in a
German dialect. There's nigandor, which means killer of nine prey.
In English. They were called like murdering pies, which I
think is because it looks like a magpie and it
does like to murder. It's also known as the great

(21:45):
butcher bird. So it is a bird that kills small
prey like grasshoppers, or bigger prey like voles, mice, small birds,
or even juvenile stoats, and once it's killed them, it
impales them on sharp thorns of a tree. Let me
show you actually what this it's like. So here it is.

(22:13):
I think that's like a field mouse or something that
it has impaled. You see what I mean though, Like
this bird does not look so scary. It's cute, right,
it's just a little guy. And yet here it is
with like a mouse, fully impaled on a thorn on
a tree. Here it is tearing off chunks of flesh

(22:37):
from the thing that it has already impaled.

Speaker 2 (22:41):
And here you see the relative size.

Speaker 1 (22:42):
It's like it looks about the size of like a
mocking bird or something, maybe even a little smaller. It's
really but yeah, they are vicious, vicious predators. Oh, here's
the one where it's just killed robins. Sometimes they grab
birds mid flight, they like go under them, grab them
by the feet, and then kill them. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (23:03):
So how do they kill them? Is it by the
impaling process or some other way?

Speaker 2 (23:07):
And then yeah, oh.

Speaker 3 (23:09):
And then impaling storage Yeah.

Speaker 1 (23:11):
So the latter, So it's a they typically kill them
by using their sturdy, hooked beak to like hit them
on the skull, and impaling them usually isn't what kills them,
although of course that probably happens sometimes. Yeah, it's going
to finish the job for sure, But the the the

(23:31):
impaling them is as you guessed, storage, and it's also
like a way to it's essentially like a kebab because
it sticks them somewhere and makes it easier for the
strike to pull off pieces of flesh rather than having
to consume the whole item, like because you see it
like with a hawk, right, it's big. It kills a vole,

(23:53):
it can just like eat that whole thing on the spot,
or an owl like owls will like eat the thing whole,
ingest it and then you know, vomit up like awl
pellets that contain the fur and stuff. So for a
smaller bird of prey like the shrike, what's it going
to do. It can't eat the prey that it's capable

(24:14):
of killing like this large prey, so it stores it
on these spikes and then it can tear off small
pieces of flesh throughout the day, throughout the week. They've
even been known to stick certain insects that have toxins
in them, and as the insect decomposes, the toxin actually
degrades and they can then eat this insect later that

(24:36):
they couldn't eat initially.

Speaker 3 (24:38):
But so if it's storing a piece of prey for
up to a week, then it isn't that prey getting
just tons of bacteria and other bad stuff. So does
that mean that the shrike has a really powerful immune
system or how does that work?

Speaker 1 (24:56):
I mean, that's a really good question. I don't know exactly.
I would say, like, yes, probably it is capable of
digesting a lot of these these bacteria. I wonder. I
think it's a good question because there's probably some mediation
of like what it eats more quickly and what it

(25:18):
waits to eat, right, because there's evidence that it does
weight to eat, say like a toxic insect, that it
not like it that when it degrades it actually makes
it safer to eat. Maybe prioritizes eating things that get
more dangerous that the longer you leave it, and then
it will eat save for later the ones that are
more toxic. And this is kind of speculation, right, Like

(25:40):
I don't know exactly, but I would say, given that
they do seem to take into account timing when eating
like poisonous insects. It would also make sense for them
to account for timing when it comes to prioritizing, like
food that would essentially spoil. But like a lot of
animals will eat carrion, right, Like, there's a lot of
food that would make us sick. That would make the

(26:02):
average like hyena vulture, you know, random animal not sick. Right,
they might have strong, really strong stomach acid that will
kill off this bacteria. So I would suspect the same
thing with this strike that it is able to handle
some bacteria. But it does like it doesn't leave the
food just rotting for like weeks, It'll eat it within

(26:25):
a few days typically. But they are also huge romantics,
So males will create a very gruesome display for females
just sticking a bunch of dead animals onto the thorns,
and he will actually present her with a gift, so
directly give her a dead animal. The bigger the better, right,

(26:48):
Like she is impressed by a large she's impressed by
a large award place to stop. She's impressed by a
large prey item, and he will offer this to her
as a gift. If he's successful, they will form a
monogamous pair bond for the breeding season, not for life.

(27:10):
So a lot of birds do this where they form
a pair bond for the breeding season, but once that's over,
you're back on the market. Maybe you'll be with the
same partner if you really like we're impressed with them,
or maybe you go back on the market again. So
some birds will pair bond for life, but these ones
they basically this this dead mouse on a stick strategy

(27:34):
only lasts for one mating season.

Speaker 3 (27:37):
Interesting, so, how how big can this.

Speaker 2 (27:40):
Get the the prey?

Speaker 3 (27:42):
Well, yeah, the the prey display like.

Speaker 1 (27:45):
How how many like like usually it's like just sort
of they have this larder, Yeah they can. They can
sometimes have a large larder where they have multiple prey
items like stuck on just like spelling out.

Speaker 2 (28:01):
Go to prom with me and dead mice? Yeah no exactly.
But usually the.

Speaker 1 (28:09):
Thing that will impress the female is that the male
actually offers a single large prey item to her. So
like he may have sort of a larder that like
attracts her, but then like he will give her like hey,
check out this huge dead vowl or like I found
a baby stoat, and I'm presenting it to you, and
that's what will compel her.

Speaker 2 (28:31):
To mate with him.

Speaker 3 (28:32):
And does the female eat the prey that was presented
to her?

Speaker 1 (28:36):
I that's a good question. I think she probably probably
sticks it on a thorn and starts eating it. She's
not gonna eat the whole thing right like, she can't,
so she probably will stick it, kebab it and maybe
eat it a little bit, save some of it for later,
you know, like how you get a box of chocolates,
you don't generally you don't eat the whole thing right

(28:56):
in front of your partner. Definitely, I'm impressed at your
cookie eating abilities. Like, we'll get some cookies and then
just like it's an incredible volume that somehow disappears somehow.
All right, well, we're gonna take a quick cookie break,

(29:18):
and when we get back, we are going to talk
about a best friend to the ladies that's better than diamonds.
So they say that diamonds are a girl's best friend,
but the sixth spot Burnett moth would disagree. Do you
think that's a good segue? So the six spot burnet

(29:41):
moth is a small moth found throughout Europe, that is
black with these striking bright red spots. See it's pretty, right, Yeah,
that's cool. Yeah, it's very It's like it's a little goth,
right because it's like red and black or.

Speaker 2 (29:58):
Is that emo? I don't know, I'm I'm out of style.

Speaker 1 (30:03):
But yeah, it's a pretty it's a pretty moth, and
it's really brightly colored. It's really striking. But this coloration,
this bright red coloration with black as contrast, is actually
an example of aposimitism, meaning that it warns predators that
they are toxic, and this toxic is cyanide. So cyanide

(30:27):
is released when the moth is injured to ward off predators,
and larva will get cyanide from their diet of a
plant called bird's foot trefoil, which you know, cool name
for a plant. But yeah, maturation into adulthood, so the
transformation from a caterpillar into a moth depletes some of

(30:51):
this supply. So in order to ensure the success of
his partner and her offspring, males will actually offer females
a gift of cyanide. So, uh, this gift, but I'll
just I think to speculate that it probably is given
through his sperm. Or sperm packet, which somehow replenishes her

(31:14):
cyanide supplies, which allows her greater defense, and also she
passes some of this on to her offspring to give
them a good sort of start in life. You know,
it's like a nest egg, but cyanide. Yeah, so you
know it's a you know, if you're if you're struggling

(31:35):
to come up with a gift.

Speaker 3 (31:38):
For for your I'm not going to get you cyanide, but.

Speaker 1 (31:43):
You know it has a lovely almondy flavor. No, it's
a don't don't don't eat cyanide. It's bad for you,
and it does it doesn't taste good like delicious almonds.
It does actually smell like almonds though.

Speaker 2 (32:01):
That's what's interesting.

Speaker 1 (32:02):
Yeah, yeah, boy has like a sort of bitter almondy smell.
So if you if someone like gives you like, like
would you like some tea, and then hands you tea
and then they're like really sweaty and your tea.

Speaker 2 (32:15):
Kind of smells like almonds, maybe don't drink it.

Speaker 3 (32:17):
Are you saying specifically bitter almonds?

Speaker 2 (32:21):
Yeah?

Speaker 1 (32:21):
Well, hang on, I'm okay, So I know I sound
like I'm a poison expert, but I'm not, uh, but
and I have personally never smelled cyanide. Yeah, it's like
people say it has like a bitter almond smell bitter almonds?

Speaker 3 (32:37):
So what is it? Bitter almond? Is that kind of
like rancid almond?

Speaker 1 (32:41):
No, I don't think it's like rancid maybe, but I mean,
like it's like I think it is as it is described,
a bitter almond, but like maybe, yeah, I don't I
don't know how an odor is bitter. Like for me,
bitter is kind of more of a taste than an odor.
So okay, so like an aroma of bitter almonds or marzipan,

(33:05):
you like marzapan.

Speaker 2 (33:06):
Yeah, this is.

Speaker 3 (33:07):
Dangerous for you, very dangerous for me.

Speaker 1 (33:09):
Because like I could just slip that right. Yeah, you
wouldn't even know because you like you like almond flavored
like cookies and stuff. Well, better really think about your
gift that you're gonna give me for Valentine's Day. Huh
uh No, so yeah, I mean for these months. This
is uh, the gift of a defensive weapon of cyanide

(33:33):
is truly the most romantic thing I see.

Speaker 3 (33:36):
But it's like the the male is giving up some
of his own defensive weapons.

Speaker 1 (33:43):
Right exactly. But what he's doing is he may be
trading off some of his own defense, but this is
more likely to ensure the success of his offspring. And
so you do see, like, parental sacrifice can be made
as long as it is increases, on net your chance
of passing on your DNA. Like, if your sacrifice in

(34:06):
terms of of fitness does not actually improve your lifetime
reproductive success, then you won't do it. But if it does,
then you'll do it. So like that's why in some
animals you might wonder, like, well, these animals seem to
like abandon.

Speaker 2 (34:21):
Their offspring like or.

Speaker 1 (34:24):
Do something that seems like selfish and self interested. And
it's like, yeah, they'll absolutely do that as long as that,
on net improves their lifetime reproductive success. Like if they
if they are reproducing a lot throughout their life, they're
actually less likely to fully sacrifice for their offspring in
any given sort of like mating, right, But if they

(34:47):
don't do a lot of repeat reproduction like this moth,
like it's like kind of a one shot sort of deal,
then they will. They'll give it there all right, this moth,
I think only reproduces once and so it's it's shooting
a shot given everything it's got for its offspring. You
know what's more? What's more romantic than that than a

(35:08):
big self sacrificing gesture and then like essentially just disintegrating later.

Speaker 2 (35:18):
But all the what's all, That's what all the rom.

Speaker 1 (35:20):
Coms have taught me is like a guy can be
a huge jerk, but as long as they do like
one huge like they hold a boom box up over
their head and like show you like you've married their
best friend. But then they show up to your door
with like a huge love letter written on poster board
and stuff, and you got you gotta hand it to them, right,
you gotta be like, oh, that's so sweet, not call

(35:42):
the police. All right, Well, before we go, we've got
to play a little game.

Speaker 3 (35:51):
Do you like games?

Speaker 2 (35:53):
All right?

Speaker 1 (35:54):
This game is called Eat the Almond Cookie. Oh, don'tat
the danger one. No, this is the Mystery Animal Sound Game. So, uh,
this is the game guess who's squawking where you guess
who is making this sound. It can be any animal
in the world. You gotta guess who is making that sound.

(36:17):
So I'm gonna play a sound for you. Hang on,
I don't want no cheating, even though you're.

Speaker 5 (36:29):
Hey.

Speaker 1 (36:30):
The hint is this, these Canadians think you're a hoser.

Speaker 3 (36:35):
H the seal No, keep going? Is a creature? No,

(36:55):
fat water creature.

Speaker 2 (36:57):
We're not.

Speaker 1 (36:57):
I guess we're paying playing fifty questions now. No, it's
not a water creature. Well most of the time. It's
not a water creature.

Speaker 3 (37:07):
Not a phinnic fox. No, I have no idea.

Speaker 1 (37:12):
It's a moose.

Speaker 2 (37:14):
It's a moose. Moose, mouss moose.

Speaker 3 (37:17):
So, I mean sometimes that's a good swimmers.

Speaker 1 (37:20):
They're actually good swimmers. So it is making moose sounds.
These grunts are from a female moose, possibly communicating with
her mate, which I think.

Speaker 2 (37:30):
Is very sexy of this female.

Speaker 3 (37:37):
Truck horn.

Speaker 1 (37:37):
Yes, so moose seems goofy, but they are actually relatively dangerous.
Have you have you seen a moose before in person?

Speaker 3 (37:48):
Or was it an elk? I saw saw a giant Yeah,
it was in Maine, crossing the road. I think it
was a moose, but it was enormous. I'm very tall,
but it is significantly taller than me.

Speaker 2 (38:03):
Yeah.

Speaker 3 (38:04):
Crazy, how giant those things are.

Speaker 1 (38:06):
Yeah, so they're like six feet tall at the shoulders.
But then when you include their antlers and their head,
they are significantly taller than six feet and you're you're
quite tall. But yeah, if a moose with a bowl moose,
like a male moose with all its antlers, I think
would beat you. They also can weigh.

Speaker 3 (38:26):
Unless I slowly ate bits of cyanide until I built
up my cyanide, And then I guess that would mean
the moose would have to eat me. So this is
a poorly thought out defense mechanism.

Speaker 1 (38:39):
Right, well, you know, I mean a moose would maybe
not want to eat you after a few bites of
like bitter almond flavor. But yeah, you.

Speaker 3 (38:53):
See, this is why I've been eating the almonds almond
cookies all the time.

Speaker 1 (38:57):
Oh maybe if you eat enough almonds, you just smell
like you have cyanide, and you like, you don't actually
have cyanide, but you smell enough almondy flavor that you
might seem like you're cyanide. I moose, don't you. Moose
don't eat people. Moose don't eat people. So a male

(39:18):
moose can weigh over sixteen hundred pounds, which is seven
hundred and twenty five kilograms. And but yeah, despite being
so huge and bulky. They can actually swim on very
rare occasion, this is not typical. They can actually be
preyed upon by orcas, So there's kind of a myth
that orcas like routinely prey upon moose. They can't, like

(39:41):
it has been seen to happen where an orca eats
a moose, but it's not typical. Otherwise, the only threat
that moose face are from humans, bears, and wolves. But yeah,
they are pretty pretty big and they don't have too
much to worry about, and so you know they uh
will they'll you know, make those really attractive noises when

(40:04):
communicating with me.

Speaker 3 (40:06):
I mean, I guess they have to be loud, right,
because they're pretty spread apart.

Speaker 1 (40:10):
Yeah, no, it's true, like to communicate over long distances.
But also just you know, he doesn't love a moosey grunt.

Speaker 3 (40:19):
I mean, don't they communicate like through the Wi Fi
enabled antlers.

Speaker 1 (40:25):
Onto this week's mister animal sound.

Speaker 2 (40:28):
The hint is.

Speaker 1 (40:28):
This this monk is ignoring his vows of celibacies and
is on the market for hanky panky.

Speaker 5 (40:39):
Oh right, it's the animal noise that was used to
signal that you're connecting to the internet when we had
dial up.

Speaker 1 (40:54):
It's dial up which was only used by virgins, which
is why I was saying vows solabusy. Uh yeah, so
your guess is that it's dial.

Speaker 2 (41:04):
Up internet all right.

Speaker 1 (41:08):
Well, if you think you know the answer out there,
you can write to me at Creature feature Pod at
gmail dot com. You can also write to me your questions,
your pet pictures, you know, general comments, whatever. Brittney, thank
you so much for.

Speaker 2 (41:25):
Joining me today.

Speaker 3 (41:25):
Thanks for having me on.

Speaker 2 (41:27):
You can now go back downstairs.

Speaker 1 (41:30):
No get out, get out.

Speaker 2 (41:32):
And thank you guys so much for listening.

Speaker 1 (41:34):
If you're enjoying the show, If you leave a ratio review,
I deeply, deeply appreciate it. I read all the reviews,
all of them, every single one. And thank you to
the Space Classics for their's super awesome song XO.

Speaker 2 (41:47):
Lumina.

Speaker 1 (41:47):
Creature features a production of iHeartRadio. For more podcasts like
the one you just heard, visit the iHeartRadio app Apple
podcast or he guess what are you listening your favorite shows?
I don't care, I don't judge. You got your mother,
You do what you want, You live your own life.
I'll see you next Wednesday.

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Katie Goldin

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