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Transcripts 19–27

Transcripts 1–9 | 10–17 | 19–27 | 28–36

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19. What is Texas Memorial Museum?

Dr. Edward Theriot
Podcast 19

Transcript 19

The mission of the Texas Memorial Museum, or TMM, is to encourage awareness and appreciation of the past, present and future of life on earth, especially in Texas. The core of the TMM is the research done on more than 5,000,000 geological and biological specimens collected around the world but primarily from Texas. The Texas Memorial Museum is that part of the TMM which develops public programs to bring to Texans the best scientific information possible about the world around them. Its exhibits draw directly from the collections of the Texas Memorial Museum.


20. What mysterious and rare wild cat comes in more than one color?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educatorr
Podcast 20

Transcript 20

The jaguarundi is a small relative of the puma, and is found in the scrublands and forests of Texas and Arizona, south into Mexico, Central America, Brazil, and Argentina. Jaguarundis have coats that are reddish-yellow, like this individual, but also may be brownish-black, or gray in color. These different color phases are found in both males and females and may be found in kittens from the same litter. The body and tail of jaguarundis are very long and these cats move with great speed and agility on both the ground and in trees. Jaguarundis typically hunt in the mornings and evenings, preying on small rodents, birds, and reptiles.


21. How did the museum get these animals?

Dr. Travis J. LaDuc
Assistant Curator of Herpetology
Podcast 21

Transcript 21

The majority of the animals you see here in the 3rd floor exhibits are real animals. Only a fraction of what you see on display isn’t real (such as the snakes along the 3rd floor hallway—as they are only painted models). The Museum has acquired these animals and other specimens kept in research collections through a variety of different ways. Museum scientists travel around the world to collect specimens for their research. Because of space limitations, however, most of these specimens end up stored off-exhibit and are used for research purposes; other specimens, like the ravens and their fantastic nests, are useful for public exhibition. Some specimens at the museum were actually collected by the public and later donated to the museum. Zoos often donate the bodies of zoo animals after they have died of natural causes. With proper care and curation, these specimens will last well beyond one person’s lifetime. Some of the large mammals on display, like the buffalo, were first displayed for the museum in the 1930s!

Taxidermy mount of Splash, the state record blue catfish, scientific name "Ictalurus furcatus".

22. What is this huge catfish?

Jessica Rosales Rains
Former Ichthyology Collections Manager
Podcast 22

Transcript 22

That is a taxidermy mount of Splash the state record blue catfish, scientific name Ictalurus furcatus. Splash is a female and weighed in at 121.5 pounds. Blue catfishes, sometimes also called bluecats, can grow up to 1.65 m or 5.4 feet in length. At 121.5 pounds, she was the largest blue catfish ever caught until a 124 pound bluecat was caught from the Mississippi River in 2005. However, as of June 2007, Splash remains the Texas state record blue catfish.

Cave dwelling catfish.

23. Why doesn't this catfish have eyes?

Jessica Rosales Rains
Former Ichthyology Collections Manager
Podcast 23

Transcript 23

Prietella phreatophila, Satan eurystomus, and Trogloglanis pattersoni are all cave dwelling catfish. All species are highly adapted to caves and total darkness by millions of years of evolution—this has resulted in complete loss of pigment and eyes. The eyes in these fishes are reduced to tiny, and apparently non-functional remnants buried deep under fatty tissue. To navigate around their environment and find food they have adapted hypersensitive senses of smell, taste, and movement detection. For example, pores in their skin can detect movement, objects, and food items.

Paddlefish skeleton

24. Is this red and blue paddlefish real?

Jessica Rosales Rains
Former Ichthyology Collections Manager
Podcast 24

Transcript 24

Yes it is! This is a real fish that has been prepared as a cleared and stained specimen. Special chemicals have been used to dye the bones red, cartilage blue, and render the body transparent. One reason scientists do this is to examine the skeletons of animals that can not be put into a beetle colony. In beetle colonies the larvae of the beetles eat away at the dried flesh of the animal leaving behind clean bones. However the larvae can devour small specimens or bones completely and will often eat right through cartilage.

So animals like frogs and salamanders that have a lot of cartilage in their skeletons, structures and connections can be easily lost causing the skeleton to fall apart. Clearing and staining keeps these connections intact. Now look closely at the paddlefish skeleton. Based on the colors, what do you think the skeleton is primarily composed of—cartilage or bone?

Timber rattlesnake

25. How old is that rattlesnake?

Dr. Travis J. LaDuc
Assistant Curator of Herpetology
Podcast 25

Transcript 25

Let's talk about what makes rattlesnakes so unique—and perhaps so identifiable: the rattle. Rattles are composed of the same material as our fingernails, keratin. Rattles are made up of individual rattle segments, each loosely connected to each other to form a rattle string. A new rattle segment is added to the base of the string every time a rattlesnake sheds its skin. There are no beans or other material inside the rattles—the noise we hear is a combination of all the rattle segments contacting each other at a high rate. On a warm day, an agitated snake can shake its rattle back and forth over 100 times a second. Much like our own fingernails, when rattle segments are exposed to different environmental conditions (such as wet, dry, cold, heat), the oldest rattle segments may break and fall off, leaving the newest segments still attached at the base of the tail. For this reason, you can not tell how old a rattlesnake is by the number of rattles it has.

Coral snake

26. Is man's best friend more dangerous than a venomous snake?

Dr. Travis J. LaDuc
Assistant Curator of Herpetology
Podcast 26

Transcript 26

Living with venomous snakes here in Texas may make us a bit uneasy and rightfully so. These snakes do have the capacity to injure and at times kill people. But before we start worrying too much about lots of venomous snakes slithering around the state, we should know some statistics regarding snakebites. In the United States, around 8000 people are bitten each year by venomous snakes, but only an average of 8–12 people actually die each year due to snakebite. In fact, in 2002, only 3 people died in the United States from venomous snakebites. Your chances of survival are incredibly high because of modern medical advances. We have a much bigger risk of dying in a vehicle accident than we do having a fatal encounter with a venomous snake. In fact, an average of 73 people die each year after being struck by lightning. Even people dying from dog bites typically account for more deaths in the United States each year than venomous snakes ever do.

Horned lizard

27. When I grew up, horned lizards were everywhere—what happened to them?

Dr. Wendy L. Hodges
Former Research Assistant
Podcast 27

Transcript 27

Early Texas settlers admired horned lizards and noticed their toad-like body shape, christening them “horny toads.” Even the scientific name, Phrynosoma, means toad-bodied. Those early settlers moved horned lizards around, starting populations in the Texas Piney Woods, Louisiana and as far east as Florida. Boy Scouts collected them and took them to jamborees. In the 1950s and ‘60s, so many horned lizards were collected that the Texas State Legislature passed special rules banning their exportation. Today they are protected by the state’s Endangered and Threatened species laws. And though over-collection has ended, Texas horned lizards continue to decline from a combination of factors: loss of habitat for agriculture and urban growth; chemicals used to kill insects, especially their food source, native ants, like the harvester ant; and the invasion of nonnative species like the red imported fire ants. Horned lizards have lived around humans for a long time, but in combination, all these factors play a role in their current demise.