animals | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

animals

Courtesy Dr. Willard Wigan, MBE

This is the first installment of Audacious Little Things!

Meet an anthropologist who explains why she thinks the human animal delights in making miniatures of things, and then meet a sculpturist dubbed “The 8th Wonder of the World” whose art requires a microscope to see.

Agapostemon splendens bee sitting on a flower
Michael C. Thomas / PNAS

Insects are the most abundant group of animals on the planet. There are an estimated 10 quintillion of them on Earth.

Republic Records

Taylor Swift has announced plans to re-record six of her previous albums in order to own master recordings of her older catalogue. Fearless (Taylor’s Version), which came out last Friday, is the first of these six re-recordings to be released. Fittingly, this would appear to be the sixth Nose that is substantively about Taylor Swift.

And: If you're socially anxious (and who isn't, really?), you're gonna miss Zoom when it's gone. Oh, and speaking of social anxiety, meet Prancer, the Chihuahua who hates almost everyone.

Tony Webster

A number of media critics gave poor grades to reporters questioning President Biden at his first formal press conference last week. Is there a disconnect between what the media cares about, such as the filibuster and the 2024 election, and what people care about?

Illustration by Chion Wolf

Imagine feeling like you have glass shards running through your blood, and imagine your doctors don’t believe how much pain you’re in.

Then, imagine you’re in a different body, incapable of feeling any pain at all.

Then, in body number three, you inflict pain on yourself so you can rate it. For science.

Agapostemon splendens bee sitting on a flower
Michael C. Thomas / PNAS

Insects are the most abundant group of animals on the planet. There are an estimated 10 quintillion of them on Earth.

But in recent years, scientists have found disturbing evidence that insect populations are on the decline around the world.

Syd Montgomery

The octopus has always been the stuff of spine-tingling legend, like that of the kraken, the many-armed sea monster believed to drag ships to the bottom of the sea after dining on the crew. Or Gertie the Pus, the giant Pacific octopus that lives under the Narrows Bridge connecting Tacoma, Washington, to Gig Harbor.

In reality, the octopus is more benign but equally fascinating. Did you know the octopus has two-thirds of its brain neurons distributed throughout its eight arms? Or that the severed arm of an octopus can walk independently toward a food source and move it to where its mouth should be?

Ben Novak / Revive and Restore

The U.S. is about to surpass 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. That said, new cases are declining, hospitalizations and deaths are trending down, and vaccination rates are picking up, though inequities remain. We talk vaccines, variants, messaging, and more.

Also this hour: A new study finds that House members who hold extreme views receive far more airtime on cable and broadcast news than their moderate counterparts. Changes in the media have incentivized elected officials such as Marjorie Taylor Greene to build a national brand at the expense of legislating for their local constituents.

Last, welcome to Elizabeth Ann, a baby black-footed ferret cloned from Willa, who died more than 30 years ago.

Jim Henkens

We have a complicated relationship with our food. We need food to live; yet, we've become removed from the food we eat and how it's grown and processed.  Even with the best of intentions, today's ultra-processed foods make it hard for us to know exactly what we're eating or how the methods used to mass produce our food are affecting our environment and our health. And I haven't even touched on how food has led to war, famine, poverty, and enslavement.    

We, The Dog

Jan 29, 2021
Photos: Quino Al (background), Niclas Moser (dog),  ActionVance (human) via Unsplash. Illustration by Chion Wolf.


What do the ways we train our dogs say about us?

You’ll hear about how dogs are trained to search and rescue, dating back to some of our earliest wars. How they’ve been trained by authority figures for hundreds of years to bite - and hold - and sometimes kill. And how the street dogs of Moscow were trained to fly into space - even though it meant their certain doom.

Courtesy: Stacey Attenberg

Volunteers caring for animals say the pandemic has greatly increased the number of stray cats in cities like New Haven.

John Kees / Wikimedia Commons

During this pandemic, most of the day our eyes are glued to our screens as we continue to work from home. This hour, we challenge you to look outside as we talk about bird watching in our state! 

Sales of bird feeders and bird seed have skyrocketed this year. If you are one of the many people that have picked up birding, look out for cardinals and woodpeckers!

Beth Beverly / Diamond Tooth Taxidermy

When you think of taxidermy, you may imagine a trophy room in which mostly male hunters have mounted the heads of 12-point stags along wood-paneled walls. If so, your image would be incomplete.

Taxidermy has gone through many iterations since gentleman scientists turned to taxidermy to understand anatomy during the Enlightenment. Victorians added a touch of whimsy, decorating their homes with birds under glass and falling in love with Walter Potter's anthropomorphized cats.

Three coyote pups in the Bronx, captured in a camera trap image
Gotham Coyote Project

Have you spotted a coyote in your neighborhood? These carnivores can live just about everywhere, from Canada to Central America, from California to -- just recently -- Long Island.

This hour, we talk with two researchers that study coyotes. We learn about how coyotes have expanded their range over the last 200 years to cover much of North America.

As other species have struggled to survive amidst human habitat destruction, why has the scrappy coyote been able to thrive?  We want to hear from you, too. Do you have coyotes in your town or city?

Do you like seeing them or do you worry they will snag your cat for supper?

Pixabay

Dogs are man’s best friend, but what’s really going on inside of their heads?

This hour, we talk with canine cognition researcher Brian Hare.

Hare runs Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center, and is the co-author of the new book: Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity.


The older I get, the more excited I am to be corrected when I’m wrong.

Sure, it may sting for a second because hearing someone say “actually…” can be kind of annoying, and if I’m wrong about something, then that means that contrary to my sparkling self-image, I don’t know it all.

Pixabay

Dogs are man’s best friend, but what’s really going on inside of their heads?

This hour, we talk with canine cognition researcher Brian Hare.

Illustration by Chion Wolf

Imagine feeling like you have glass shards running through your blood, and imagine your doctors don’t believe how much pain you’re in.

Then, imagine you’re in a different body, incapable of feeling any pain at all.

Then, in body number three, you inflict pain on yourself so you can rate it. For science.

Netflix, Inc.

It's been over 100 years since the first cartoons were drawn by hand. Since then, the form has delved into everything from sex and drugs to racial inequality and war crimes. Even the tamest, G-rated cartoons have often found ways of slipping in adult humor past the eyes of younger viewers.

Cartoons have been the vehicle for government propaganda, social change, and political satire. Some have been boycotted and even banned for their content while others have been deemed masterpieces and praised by critics for their bold message and style.

Permafrost thaw on the Peel Plateau of Canada
Scott Zolkos / Woodwell Climate Research Center

As climate change continues to raise temperatures worldwide, the arctic is warming even faster than the rest of the world.

Today, we take a look at the unique arctic terrain that is under threat from climate change: the permafrost. This frozen landscape is defined by deep layers of soil that never get above freezing.

But now, that’s starting to change, and the permafrost is starting to thaw—with devastating affects for the communities living on top of it.

Andrew Malone / Creative Commons

The pandemic has led to national shortages in testing supplies, PPE, and now, coins. 

We’ve been predicting a cashless society and the demise of the penny for so long that we may be underestimating how much people still use coins in places like laundromats and coffee shops, and the occasional parking meter. 

And about eight million households are “unbanked” and rely on money orders, pawnshops or payday loans instead of banks. So, where are all the coins?

Also this hour: The world’s earliest coins date back to ancient Greek and Roman culture. And each coin contains information often not found anywhere else in surviving relics of the ancient world. Some numismatists consider ancient coins one of the most important discoveries to fuel the Renaissance. 

Illustration by Chion Wolf

When you were growing up, you probably heard about famous inventors. Maybe you thought they were brilliant. Rigorously trained. Confident. Capable. And that their inventions advanced humankind through and through.

But Dr. Ainissa Ramirez spent the last 5 years writing a book that strips away those presumptions. In The Alchemy of Us: How Humans and Matter Transformed One Another, she paints portraits not of how inventors settled questions of the limits of technology - but of how much further we still have to go.

Today, you’re gonna hear from three people who had close encounters with wild animals - and have the scars to prove it.

You’ll hear how - and if - any of these people felt defined by their experiences, and what sense they’ve made out of their encounters. Plus, you’ll hear from a wildlife expert about what animals you should be careful to keep away from here in New England.

Kittens are finding homes fast during the pandemic
Ali Warshavsky / WNPR

Annamarie Koch took an old English bulldog into her Ansonia home this spring.

“My husband is an essential worker, so he was never home and I was home all the time,” she said. “I was lonely.”

Colin Gillette, Bradford County, PA

The number of people testing positive for coronavirus continues to rise in many parts of the U.S., with sharp rises in places like Florida, Nevada, Alabama, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Yet, President Trump continues to attribute the rise to more testing -- despite the rise in hospitalizations and deaths -- and he wants to reduce federal aid for more testing, tracing, and for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also this hour: The ABC News/Washington Post poll released Sunday shows former Vice President Joe Biden leading President Trump by 15 points among registered voters, 55% to 40%. A majority of respondents are not happy with the president's handling of the coronavirus, among other things.

Ryan von Linden / New York Department of Environmental Conservation

Do you see bats where you live? These flying creatures play important roles in ecosystems around the world, from pest control to pollination.

But bats in Connecticut are in big trouble. This hour: bats in our state have been devastated by White-Nose Syndrome. We learn more about this deadly disease and talk about why we should be concerned that populations in Connecticut have been so hard hit.

Bats in China have made news because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We hear why scientists have looked to these flying creatures to understand the origins of a number of deadly diseases.

And we talk with bat researchers about why--amid fears of a pandemic--bats need our support, not our fear, more than ever.

Sandy Cole / Wikimedia Commons

The Argus Pheasant is a lifelong bachelor. He mates with multiple females but has no further contact with his mates or the baby pheasants he sires. By human terms, not much of a feminist.

Yet, he stages a chivalrous courtship on moonlit nights on a forest stage he clears with meticulous care. He sings and dances and pecks. He encompasses his 'date' in a cape of intricately-colored four-foot-long feathers. He ends with a bow.  

Evolutionarily, there's no purpose for the spectacular feathers on the Argus Pheasant - unless you consider they may have evolved to satisfy the sexual preferences of the female Argus.

images of Giant ground sloth (Megatherium americanum), Moa (Megalapteryx didinus), Blue Whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
Ballista, George Edward Lodge, Michael L. Baird / Wikimedia Commons

What would it have been like to see a huge, elephant-like mastodon roaming our state? 

The earth has been home to some spectacularly large animals. A few of them still roam or swim our world today.

This hour, we take a look at the biology of these giants. 

Wood Thrush
Paul J. Fusco

Have you noticed fewer sparrows or warblers flitting about your backyard? Bird populations in North America have been declining for years, but in 2019, the data was particularly grim. Two-thirds of bird species are at risk of extinction due to climate change and urbanization, according to recent studies. What does that mean for Connecticut’s birds?

This hour, we talk to UConn professor Chris Elphick and climate scientist Brooke Bateman, from the National Audubon Society, about the factors contributing to bird decline and what we can do to protect bird habitats.

And Corina Newsome, a self-proclaimed “Hood Naturalist,” is on a mission to inspire young people of color to consider careers in wildlife sciences. We talk to Newsome about her work.

david siu / flickr creative commons

Nobody likes termites. They get into the wood in our homes and can lead to infuriating and expensive repairs. What's to like?

It turns out, there's a lot to like termites. Scientists study how they build their mounds for clues to solving some of the world's most pressing problems, like mitigating the effects of drought, building colonies on Mars, and creating biofuels.

Pages