What is a mammal? Bonus points edition.

Let’s go back to the last science class to answer today’s question. Not last last science class. Not physics or chemistry for non-science majors or forensic whatevertheelective, let’s go back to around 5th grade animal science.

What is a mammal?

A mammal is warm-blooded.

A mammal mommy produces milk for its young.

A mammal bears live young (except in Australia….of course)

That’s fine, I guess. But it’s not good enough for me, children. I am the student who demands bonus points, the finest in Lisa Frank stickers and additional pluses after my A. Let’s step up our mammal game.

For bonus points:

A mammal has true hair. Before you start imagining animals wearing wigs or merkins, think about what are considered ‘hairy’ non-mammals. Spiders and that yeti crab come to mind for me.

Children, are you ready for a new brushably soft animal companion? It's Kiwa! The Yeti Crab.

These hairs are actually “setae” which are connected to the nervous system of the animals used to sense the world around them. So remember that next time you want to really torture a spider (I’m not here to judge why), just give it a haircut.

A mammal has a four chambered heart. Fish get by with two and amphibians three. Reptiles have three or three and half chambers. And birds think they’re as good as us with four chambers. But we mammals have  sweat glands and more middle ear bones so we still win.

Stupid, panting bird. Can't even sweat.

A mammal has baby teeth and big boy teeth. Also known as milk teeth or deciduous teeth and permanent teeth, respectively.  On the last podcast, I pondered what the deal with sets of teeth was all about. We guessed correctly that other animals (polyphyodonts) just burn through multiple sets of teeth. Unlike sharks that can go through 30,000 in a lifetime, we mammals (diphyodonts) get a special hardy set of two to do all the chewing we’re so famous for.

No, it's not some little gif on loop. This is actually a 5 hour gif of a cow doing what cows do best - Nothing of interest.

Of course, there are exceptions. Elephants get up to 6 replacements. They come and go in regular intervals up until that last set, after those are worn out the elephant kind of just starves to death. Tough break. Manatees are the other exception. They get the same marching molars system to compensate a hardy diet of veggies mixed with sand.   The reptiles scoff at our puny set of molars but at least we have all kinds of tooth shapes.

A mammal is a heterodont. We have all kinds of teeth in a mouth: molars, canines, incisors, buck (although I have see buck toothed fish *shudder*) The shapes vary depending on the mammal and what a variety it is!

Like a boss.

Pretty. Pretty cool. I don’t know about you but I feel more informed about mammals.There are probably some even more advanced level mammal distinctions but I just wanted to get to the teeth.


The Blast Heard ‘Round the World

As we mentioned on the last installment of the codpast, before the “viral videos” were all the rage, there was The Exploding Whale. Watch it often, especially at parties:


Hey, remember the alcoholic monkeys I mentioned on our last full codpast? Well, it looks like the BBC scooped us on that story. And made a sweet video about it. Enjoy!

This Week in Animal History: September 7

While Matt and his family “hunkered down” for Hurricane Irene, the rest of the Animal News Team has been on assignment. Kristin has been walking around, glaring at cartoon chickens that love fried chicken. Meanwhile, I have been diligently working on a second edition of Animal History: The Pop-up Book and doing google image searches for the babe Matt interviewed at the zoo.

Speaking of zoos:

This Week in Animal History

On September 7, 1936, the last Tasmanian tiger in captivity died at the Hobart Zoo. The largest carnivorous marsupial of modern times, the Tasmanian tiger was an interesting little predator. However, the Tasmanian tiger’s demise as a species was a long time coming. For quite a while, the Tassie tiger was the largest predator in Australia. But some 2,000 years ago, dingos started taking over Australia and eventually drove the tigers off the mainland. Limited to the island of Tasmania, the tigers were soon in a bad way due to the arrival of Europeans, their dogs and a viral disease (although it is not clear that the Europeans brought the virus with them.)

By the time conservation efforts were started in the early 1900’s, the Tasmanian tiger was all but finished. Apparently, breeding programs at zoos were unsuccessful or nonexistent and the wild population was already in such decline that there was scarcely any chance of a rebound in the population. The employees of the Hobart Zoo, less diligent and less caring than the lovely people at the Maryland Zoo, left the very last captive Tasmanian tiger locked out of its shelter. Left exposed to the elements, the very last Tasmanian tiger died.

Sometimes history is sad.

Anti-Plug: Animals Selling Themselves

No, I’m not talking about monkey prostitution like you’re thinking.

Recently, Matt did some interviewing at The Maryland Zoo and reminded me of something I really hate when it comes to zoos. Prices. Well, namely pricier items like stuffed animals, posters, and….food. THEN I thought of what truly annoyed me to the core. When places do things like this:

This has got to stop.

I realize that part of what makes me uncomfortable is the disconnect I and believe most Americans have between us and our food. I don’t care how delicious or perfectly cooked  a hamburger  is, no one wants to think of cute lil Bessie turning into one. So, images like this tend to make anyone uncomfortable.

My French is a little rusty but I think the idea here is that this sausage is an orgasm in your mouth.

And for the most part, this kind of thing doesn’t really show up anymore in places that aren’t Asia anyway.


Were they not plastered in their cheesegraves, those coconut-fried shrimp would be spinning.

What kind of jacked up nightmare is this? Just because animals can and often do eat members of their own species doesn’t mean the anthropomorphic versions should take so much pleasure in selling out their own kind. Do we really think animals would be so excited about serving up their friends for dinner?

Or even their enemies?

I shouldn’t have to deal with this. I’ll stick to purchasing my animal soul-enriched products from normal restaurant representatives like children and clowns.

This Week in Animal History: August 29

This Week in Animal History is trying to track down Matt as he tours America without his co-hosts. We’ve followed him as far as Ellicott City, Maryland. When we heard that he was visiting the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore, we hopped on the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. Then we noticed that it was no longer in operation.

This Week in Animal History

On August 28, 1830, the B&O’s experimental steam locomotive Tom Thumb raced against a horse-drawn cart, proving to the world that steam engines are better than animals. That is, until they break down. Which is exactly what the Tom Thumb did.

While testing the Tom Thumb on the rails between Ellicott City and Baltimore, the engineer was challenged to the impromptu race by the driver of a horse-drawn passenger car. The steam engine got off to a commanding lead before throwing a belt or something and losing power. With the Tom Thumb stranded the horses casually strolled to victory. This shallow victory marked the end of the horse’s monopoly on transportation. Wikipedia informs us that in subsequent horse v. locomotive races “horse victories were extremely rare, if there were any at all.” Although there is no evidence to suggest that the horses from this race became horse folk-heroes à la John Henry, they probably should have.

This Week in Animal History: August 22

Matt ran off to the USA and took the podcast with him. What he didn’t take was the leather-bound first edition of Jake’s Complete Guide to Animal History. So if you listened to this week’s podcast and felt like something was missing, it was probably This Week in Animal History! (Although Matt’s assessment of biological warfare in the middle ages was historical, he left out the part where they also hurled dead livestock into besieged cities.)

So without further ado:

This Week in Animal History

On August 22, 565 AD, St. Columba was ambling along in Scotland and he came across a couple of gentlemen who were burying a body. The deceased, Columba was informed, had been killed by a monster in a nearby loch. Subsequently, as Columba stood alongside the River Ness, he spied a swimmer in peril. The poor soul was under attack from a vicious creature of the deep. St. Columba, no doubt a certified life guard, followed standard life-saving protocol; he made a sign of the cross and told the monster “You shall not pass!”* Like all bullies, the monster was absolutely shocked that anybody would stand up to him and quickly retreated. The witnesses/survivors all converted to Christianity and Columba went on to become the patron saint of bookbinders and poets.

If you have not already guessed, this story is the oldest recorded account of one of the world’s most famous monsters: Bigfoot. I mean, Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

*”You shall not pass!” is not exactly what he said, since he presumably didn’t speak English. The story as related by Adomnan of Iona is in Latin. In it Columba says “Noles ultra progredi” which actually does mean (more or less… or much less) “You shall not pass!”

What became of the haberdashers? (For MEN ONLY!)

Women of the world, please do not read this post, it is for MEN ONLY. Here is a link to more suitable reading for the fairer sex.

Alright, now that it is just us guys, I have to warn you of something. We men are becoming obsolete. New technology is making it possible for women to open their own stuck jars, kill their own bugs, and even program their own TiVos. We male specimens are becoming more and more useless.

“Don’t worry,” you say to yourself, “men will never be phased out entirely, eventually all of the females go baby crazy and then we males will be in demand for our seed. Indeed, we are entering a golden age of manhood! Thanks to Women’s Liberation, the ladies now can do all of the work while we laze about and make ourselves available for reproduction! Like a bee drone, the man of the future will exist only to lie around, gorging himself on honey until he is required for mating. Glorious days lie ahead!”

As tempting as a life of honey and sex sounds, the cottony cushioned scale (a gross little agricultural pest) has started a revolution that could see the end of males altogether. According to a National Geographic article, many of the females of this species of insect have become self-fertilizing (almost.) A parasitic clone of the female’s own father develops within the insect and fertilizes the eggs. So male cottony cushioned scales are no longer necessary and will likely die out in the near future. It is only a matter of time before human women find out about this and decide to give it a try. You know how they are about trendy health crazes.

So guys, before your wives and girlfriends find out about this evolutionary development, make yourself seem useful. Clean the gutters, get things off the top shelf for her, clean your shaving scum out of the bathroom sink. In short, do something to show that men are still good for SOMETHING. We all have to work together here guys or we’ll go the way of the Betamax.

You Don’t Know What to Think About Orca (Videos)

Oh my goodness, this thing is the most precious thing ever! Look, it’s dancing.


So, it would seem that orcas can express themselves through dance but not through empathy.


Here, it’s playing with a dog. Not the kind of playing that ends up with snapped spines and internal bleeding, either. The nice, cute kind.


Annnnnd here we see what orcas do with their giant, complex hunting brains. They get together and plan plot conspire.


Somewhere between Let’s Kill Em All and Free Willy is what should respect for smart, majestic and cruel, vicious animals. Also, in that same spot is this video.


Payback’s a BITCH isn’t it, Pelican?!

Bee-ing Informed About Bees

Hey guys!

Matt here. I know we did a lot of buzz-worthy puns on the last podcast (Boom), but we mentioned some things in the podcast that you can watch on the internet.

First off, here is one of the most horrifyingly awesome things that you will ever see. Watch wasps murder the hell out of some bees. The hive is destroyed. To learn more about the wasps, here is the wikipedia.

To know more about the bee group hug of death, go here and look under supersedure. The bear hug of death is done so that they can replace the queen in her old age.

Of course, this being wikipedia, they have an article on the effects of toxic chemicals on bees. The first intoxicant that they list is, of course, alcohol.

Anyway, if you have more bee-search for us to add, please leave a comment. Also, please kill me so I can stop making these puns.