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June 5, 2024 23 mins

Bored with dragons, the wizard Argomandanies turns his arcane attention to the fantastic fauna of the natural world. Welcome to Animalia Stupendium, a chronicle of Earth’s amazing biodiversity with all the enthusiasm of a fantasy monster book. In this special omnibus episode, the wizard will consider the mantis shrimp, the angler fish, the glass frog and the common kingfisher.

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Stuff to Blow your Mind, a production of iHeartRadio.

Speaker 2 (00:10):
Hi everyone, this is a special omnibus episode of Animalia's Stupendium.
We're going to be hearing from the wizard Argomandanese here
as he applies his fantasy world enthusiasm for biological wonder,
but not to dragons and ogres and so forth, but
rather to the creatures of our world. So first up,

(00:30):
let's hear about the mantis shrimp.

Speaker 3 (00:35):
Welcome to animalias Stupendium. My name is Agromandanese, Wizard to
the Five Crowns. Who is it for now? Inventor of
the magic missile and tireless creature chronicler. However, mere monsters
hold no mystery for me these days. Dragons are drab,

(00:56):
mantic cores are me. Instead, I turn my attention once
more to the strange fauna of a land called Earth.
Travel with me, gentle reader, as we consider the mighty mantis.

Speaker 2 (01:11):
Shrimp common name mantis shrimp. Scientific classification various species of
the order Stomatopod, frequency and range, Indian and Pacific ocean size,
small diet, various gastroparts, crabs and mosques, treasure work, eggs, challenge, rading, eleven.

(01:36):
How might I describe these tiny aquatic wonders so unlike
the boring mervfork and hippocampi i'd study previously, Most specimens
are no longer than ten centimeters three point nine inches,
or roughly two lengths of a wizard's finger. It is,
of course, a burrow dwelling crustation, with an elongated body,

(01:57):
stopped eyes, slender legs, and long antennae. Its appearance compares
favorably to other shrimp, though their front appendages resemble the
raptorial legs of the also excellent terrestrial insect predator, the
preying mantis its namesake, ah, But the colors. The so
called peacock mantishrimp, for example, is so named because it

(02:21):
features bright shades of red, green, orange, and blue. Such
a creature would not seem out of place in the
chromatic realm, But its eyes are even more curious what
colors do they see? While human eyes have only three
types of photoreceptor cells to process colors, mantis shrimp both

(02:42):
between twelve and sixteen. This has led to much speculation
on exactly what a mantishrimp sees when it beholds its
aquatic world. Might it in fact, glimpse colors beyond the
realm of human senses. It's entirely possible, but researchers increasingly
urge caution on grand generalizations about how and what these

(03:06):
curious creatures see. Without access to a good polymorphs spell,
human scientists are largely in the dark. Many mysteries remain. Certainly,
manti shrimp may very well recognize subtle coloration differences in
other mantis shrimp predators or choral environments. It's also possible

(03:27):
that color perception is just one part of an elaborate
sensory network, and we do it a vast disservice to
put too much emphasis on vision, though this, of course
is an understandable mistake given that we are such sight
dependent creatures. Researchers point out that in experiments, some manti

(03:47):
shrimp seem to depend more on shape than colorization in
judging various targets in their environment. Still, what are those
eyes capable of sea? And how might we claim these
powers for our own I have a notion in mind
for a pair of magical goggles, but scientists have explored

(04:09):
ways they might technologically mimic mantis shrimp eyes to create
improved optical senses to do everything from improved cell phone
cameras to aid doctors in the detection and removal of tumors.

Speaker 3 (04:24):
But let us consider the weaponry of the mantis shrimp.
The mantis shrimp makes use of two attacks via its
raptorial front appendages, but the type of damage depends on
the species. Some mantis shrimp, including the peacock mantis shrimp,

(04:45):
pack a pair of dactile clubs which strike with bullet
like speeds to kill or stung enemies by impact and
or shock wave bludgeoning damage. This punch is actually fast
enough to do superheated vapor bubbles in the surrounding waters,
and these cavitation forces may apply additional damage. The majority

(05:09):
of mantis shrimp, however, have barbed frontal appendages to pierce
their prey at lower attack speeds, while the clubbing mantis
shrimp depend on a spring loaded mechanism. Spearing mantis shrimp
are divided between spring loaded stabbers and active muscle movement stabbers.
In either case, the stab happy mantis shrimp varieties ambush

(05:34):
their prey from cover, while clubbers launch more of a
full frontal assault.

Speaker 2 (05:41):
Sources for this episode included the National Aquarium, the Great
Barrier Re Foundation, Michael Irvings How the deadly mantis shrimp
keeps cracks in its club in Czech published on New
Atlas in twenty eighteen. Jessica Morrison's mantis shrimp supercolour vision
debunked published in Nature twenty four, Kroninetl's color vision in

(06:03):
stomatopod crustaceans published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society
b twenty twenty two. And patel at All's mantis shrimp
identify an object by its shape rather than its color
during visual recognition, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology
twenty twenty one. Okay, let's move on to the next selection,

(06:23):
the anglerfish. Travel with me, gentle reader, as we consider
the amazing courtship of the deep sea anglerfish common name anglerfish.
Scientific classification multiple species of the teleost order lopoformes, frequency

(06:45):
and range, deep sea environments worldwide and tropical to temperate latitudes.
Size up to four feet or one point two meters,
diet crustaceans and small fish treasure Hoarde Male Breeding Partners
Challenge rating three.

Speaker 3 (07:03):
To be sure, there is no singular deep sea angler
fish in fact, there are more than two hundred known species.
This includes the sea toads or coffin fish, as well
as the black sea devils, among many others. These outrageous names,
of course, dim from the sometimes froglike and sometimes frightening

(07:28):
appearance of these bony fish. Meals can be scarce in
the deep ocean, and so many species boast adaptations to
help them eat any suitable prey they might encounter. This
includes large mouths, large stomachs, and long needlelike translucent teeth

(07:50):
piercing damage. The anglerfish can also depress its long teeth
at will to allow unobstructed travel down the predator's throat,
and can likewise be raised again like the bars of
a cage, to prevent engulfed prey from escaping. Anglerfish are

(08:14):
ambush predators, and their name comes from the bioluminescent lure appendage,
a modified ray fin that they can unsheath to lure
prey into gobbling range, so much like a glowing wizard's
wand the lure is actually powered by symbiant photobacteria, which

(08:38):
reside in the lure by the millions. How they first
acquire the bacteria long remained an open question. With scientists
unsure if developing anglerfish encounter them in the open ocean
or are inoculated with them by apparent during spawning, but

(08:59):
some recent recent search points more toward the former. Either way,
it would appear to be a mutually beneficial relationship, as
the bacteria benefit from protection and nutrients as the angler
moves throughout its environment. But today or today is Valentine's Day,

(09:19):
so we must speak the love language of the anglerfish,
making check again. There are numerous anglerfish species to consider,
but many species boast extreme sexual dimorphism. The female is
larger and fiercer by a considerable margin, and the male's

(09:42):
main purpose is to provide sperm for sexual reproduction. For
black sea devils, the male is free swimming but doesn't
even feed as an adult. In other species, the small
male is parasitic in nature, attaching to the female's body
and fusing with her. See. Just as prey encounters in

(10:07):
the deep ocean are rare, so two are mating matches.
The miniature males put all their effort into seeking out
and finding a potential mate, and then in some species
attach themselves initially via a byte and eventually become a
grafted on reproductive organ such devotion. In some species, a

(10:34):
female may acquire multiple parasitic males. These males continue to live,
but become entirely dependent on the females for nutrients and blood.
The upside for her is they don't take up much space,
They require comparably little nourishment, and are ready to provide

(10:54):
sperm whenever she is ready to reproduce. Their reproduction and
by the way, is carried out externally via spawmen. The
female releases her eggs, the males release their sperm, and
the fertilized eggs drift off in the water column. The

(11:14):
males remain and are ready to help out the next
time around as well.

Speaker 2 (11:20):
Sources for this episode included Osceania dot org, the Monterey
Bay Aquarium, Emily Osterroloft's The Bizarre love Life of the Anglerfish,
published on the website of the Natural History Museum London, lk.
Wards meet the tiny bacteria they give anglerfishes their spooky glow,
published twenty sixteen on Smithsonian's Ocean and Krishna Ramanaja's study

(11:43):
Eliminates link between anglerfish bacteria published twenty nineteen on the
Cornell Chronicle. All Right, let's move on to the next selection,
the glass frog.

Speaker 3 (12:00):
Travel with me, gentle reader, as we consider the glorious glass.

Speaker 2 (12:07):
Frog common name glass frog, scientific classification some one hundred
and forty seven species of the family central Linidae, frequency
and range Central and South America. Size small, generally two
inches or five centimeters in length. Diet various small arthropods

(12:30):
and smaller frogs. Treasure horde, egg clutches laid on leaves
or branches overhanging small bodies of water Challenge rating three.

Speaker 3 (12:42):
Through my travels in magical realms, I even countered no
shortage of invisible creatures. Various spirits, demons, and fay that
lurk in the shadows, become the shadows and creep upon
unsuspecting adventurers. So too, I have met many a rogue

(13:05):
who survived encounters due to their ability to blend into
their environment and remain unseen. And yet never have I
seen a wondrous treasure, not even in a dragon's splendid
horde as precious as the glass frog. Most of these

(13:25):
are arboreal denizens of the cloud forest, boast a semi
translucent skin, thus their name, and through their glass like
skin one may glimpse their very organs and the coursing
of red blood through their veins. Indeed, did I not
know better, I might assume that some careless apprentice had

(13:49):
dripp'd the very ink of animation upon the pages of
an anatomy text book. But I assure you these frogs
are quite real. And since glass frogs are products of
evolution and not accidental wizardry, you might ponder why they
acquired translucent skin and visible organs, because surely it is

(14:14):
a careless adventure who strolls into an enemy's stronghold with
invisible flesh but visible viscera. It might shock and confuse
your adversaries in the short term, but they'll certainly know
where you are. They'll wise up, and you might not
like where they aim their arrows. I am somewhat reminded

(14:37):
of the crystal flesh Ghuls of Nuan in this as well,
but that is beside the point. Indeed, scientists long pondered
the nature and effectiveness of the glass frog's camouflage. There
are two amazing factors we must consider here. First of all,
while their central bodies reveal therein eternal organs, their legs

(15:02):
are generally a great deal more translucent as are the
edges of their bodies. Thus, when the frog bunches itself
up on a leaf, the edges of its balk blend
into its surroundings, be it dark or light. This is
called edge diffusion, the softening of line separation between the

(15:24):
creature and its background. Think of it as a blurring
of the visible boundary between the individual and the surroundings.
Stealth check, and there's more. Quite recently, scientists discovered something
very exciting about the glass frog's blood. Yes, when the

(15:46):
frog is active, the visible veins of coursing red certainly
mark the frog for potential sighted predators. But when the
frog is asleep, most of its red blood cells pool
within the creature's live swelling the organ by some forty
percent and amassing an estimated eighty nine percent of the

(16:07):
creature's red blood cells a virtual liver of holding. As
a result, the frog's overall translucency increases by as much
as half or even more. Success It's an extreme adaptation,
and scientists ponder how they might learn from it in

(16:29):
the treatment and prevention of blood clots. For the frogs
carry out this daily feet without suffering clots of their own.
Further study may lead to the development of new ante coagulants.
Glass Frog coloration and translucency varies from species to species,

(16:49):
as do some of their other adaptations. At least one
species produces bright red tadpoles that bury themselves in mud
and leaf litter for completing their metamorphosis.

Speaker 2 (17:02):
Thanks to my son Sebastian for suggesting the topic of
glass frogs, which he read about in the twenty twenty
two Kingfisher Animal Encyclopedia, which also served as a source
for this episode. Other sources include Imperfect Transparency and Camouflage
in glass Frogs by Ryan at All, published in the
Journal Biological Sciences twenty twenty and glass Frogs Concealed blood

(17:27):
in their liver to maintain transparency by Kaboada at All,
published in the Journal Science twenty twenty two. All Right
one final selection for this episode, and it's the common Kingfisher.
Travel with me, gentle reader, as we consider the common
kingfisher common name Eurasian kingfisher, common kingfisher, or river kingfisher.

(17:54):
Scientific classification alcedo Athys, frequency and range Europe, Northern Africa,
Central and Southern Asia. Size up to six inches or
fifteen centimeters long, diet small fish, along with some aquatic insects,
treasure horde, bone littered burrows and eggs challenge rating one.

Speaker 3 (18:18):
Some ninety two kingfisher species populate the Earth and are
found on every continent except for Antarctica. Of these, a
good half prey upon lizards and other small land animals
and their kin. The beaters, as their name suggests, snatch
bees and wasps right out of the air, then smack

(18:41):
them against a branch to dislodge the venom before gobbling
them down. But I digress. A good half of known
kingfisher species do what they are most famous for, and
that is catch and eat fish. Such is the case
of the European kingfisher, a beautiful bird with an almost

(19:04):
comically large head, long bill, short legs, and a stubby tail.
Its plumage is absolutely resplendent, an orange belly the color
of a brilliant sunset, and turquoise wings and head. Such
a splendid little avian gym, you will find it not

(19:26):
in treasure chess, but on branches overhanging, clear, slow moving
streams and rivers. Their vision is superb highly adapted to
watch for fish under the surface of the water, adjusting
for refraction and making out prey a good one hundred
yards or ninety meters away perception check success, the kingfisher

(19:55):
dives into the water, snatches its prey in its beak,
and then flies back to its perch, where it stuns
the fish against a branch before swallowing it head first,
bludgeoning damage. Now it's easy to dismiss this hunting spectacle,
at least until you try to do it for yourself. No,

(20:16):
I don't refer to any of my polymorph duels with
various witches, but rather to the kingfisher's place in the
human science of biomimicry. This is, of course, the discipline
of solving complex human problems by looking at the way
nature has solved similar problems over the course of evolutionary time.

(20:39):
The human design problem here has nothing to do with
catching fish or diving into the water, but rather with
maximizing the design of Japanese bullet trains. See Early in
their use, the high speed trains generated a pressure boom
when exiting tunnels due to build up and compressed air

(21:01):
at the front of the speeding train, an effect that
also served to slow the trains down at least this
was the case until engineers studied the head and beak
structure of the common kingfisher, which in turn has evolved
for maximal stream lined entry into the water. The scientists

(21:24):
were able to apply these design principles to the front
of the train, and presto, no more boom. Finally, I
would like to mention the layer or burrow of the
common kingfisher. It is assumed that this species does not
collect and use nesting materials, but rather digs nest burrows
in the banks of streams or rivers, the entryway sloping

(21:48):
to prevent rain and floodwaters from flowing into it. And
here inside, certainly you may find the birds and their eggs,
but you will also find a great midden of fish
bones see. The common kingfisher will frequently cough up indigestible
bits of bone and scale which accumulate in the burrow.

(22:10):
Other varieties of fish eating kingfisher, however, may make more
active use of the bones in their burrow.

Speaker 2 (22:17):
Construction sources for this one included David Bernie's Kingfisher Animal
Encyclopedia twenty twenty two, San Diego Zoo dot Org, BBC's
how a Kingfisher helped reshape Japan's Bullet Train, a video
produced by Jennifer Green and Anadobal and animated by Jules
Bartell twenty nineteen. And Sorry vs. Sarah McGarry's BioMedics Applications

(22:42):
in Structural Design, published in the International Journal of Innovative
Research and Science, Engineering and Technology, twenty twenty one.

Speaker 3 (22:49):
For now I must retire my wizard's quill and allow
my familiars some respite. But I shall return with even
more wonders of the natural world.

Speaker 2 (23:05):
Indeed, the Wizard shall return for more animal profiles in
the future. And you can certainly write in with suggestions
and we will forward them to him. You can email
us as always at contact at stuff to Blow your
Mind dot com.

Speaker 1 (23:23):
Stuff to Blow Your Mind is production of iHeartRadio. For
more podcasts from my Heart Radio, visit the iHeartRadio app,
Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to your favorite shows.

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