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Cuckoo Moth And Ant Anarchy
Accompanying audio here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-dr-tommy-leung-and-the-destructive-cuckoo-moths
The radio show I was doing last year - Creepy but Curious - has returned for 2016, and I recently recorded an episode talking about a brood parasitic moth with a "cuckoo-like" habit. It is a tale of deception, regicide, and anarchy. To find out more, you can listen to that episode on SoundCloud here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-dr-tommy-leung-and-the-destructive-cuckoo-moths

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Tale Of The Lost Snail
Accompanying audio here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-tommy-leung-the-lost-snail
The radio show I was doing last year - Creepy but Curious - is back for 2016! I kick things off this year by telling the story of the Lost Snail - a parasite call Leucochloridium which not only takes over the body of the amber snail, but also tampers with its little snail mind. So if you like hearing story about body-snatching, mind-bending parasites, follow the link here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-tommy-leung-the-lost-snail

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The Bone-House Wasp And The Vestibules Of Death
Earlier today I was on ABC New England recording a new episode of Creepy but Curious - a regular radio segment that I go on once a month to talk about weird and wonderful animals.
This time, I talked about the Bone-house wasp Deuteragenia ossarium - a tiny insect with a number of macabre habits. First off, it is one of 5000 known species of spider wasps. These insects hunt spiders not to eat them - but to turn them into living larders to feed their developing larvae. They inject a venom into the spider which immobilises (but not kill) it, then lays a single egg on it. When the egg hatches, the larva eats the spider alive.
But as if that isn't macabre enough, the bone-house wasp also has a habit of collecting dead ants. Why? Find out more by following the link below to listen to (or download) the recorded segment.

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A Green Aquatic Arms Race
I was on ABC New England yesterday  recording a new episode of Creepy but Curious - a regular radio segment that I go on about once a month to talk about weird and wonderful animals.
This week I was talking about Elysia - the green sea slug. Unlike most other sea slugs that munch on their food using a rasp-like radula, Elysia had evolved to be sap-suckers that feed on seaweed by sucking out their content with a straw-like mouthpart, much like an aphid. Furthermore, they are able to steal the seaweeds' chloroplast - the plant's photosynthetic organelles - intact (!) and integrate them into their own bodies. Some experiments indicates that the slug might be able to use those chloroplasts to conduct their own photosynthesising (but others are not so sure, see also: http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/11/19/solar-powered-slugs-are-not-solar-powered/).
But the seaweed isn't taking this lying down - it is heavily defended both physically and chemically - but Elysia is able to bypass all that. In addition, there is also a third party involved in this Sea Slug vs Seaweed story - to find out more, follow the link below to listen (or download) the recorded segment.
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Mussels and Bitterlings: A Pair of Unlikely Parasites
This is a drawing I did for a radio segment here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-mussels-and-bitterlings
Earlier today, I was on ABC New England recording a new episode of Creepy but Curious - a regular radio segment that I go on once every few weeks to talk about the weird and wonderful animals that live on this planet. This week, I talked about some freshwater mussels that have parasitic larvae, and a peculiar fish call the bitterling which uses mussels as living incubators. You can listen to it here:
https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-mussels-and-bitterlings
I also wrote about the bitterling a few years in a review paper about fish species that have parasitic habits at various stages of their lives. You can download that paper for free here: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/262269926_Fish_as_parasites_An_insight_into_evolutionary_convergence_in_adaptations_for_parasitism

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Alice Ant And The Curious Carnivorous Caterpillar
This is a piece which I drew for a radio segment here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-carnivorous-caterpillars where I talked about carnivorous caterpillar.
There are over 160000 species of known moths and butterflies and most of them are herbivorous. In fact, caterpillars are very specific about what plants they munch on - some only ever feed on a single species of plant throughout their development, and few have a host plant range of more than three plant families.
But there is a tiny percentage of caterpillars that have evolved to be carnivorous, about one percent of all know lepidopteran (moths and butterflies) are actually carnivores. They have all evolved to be that way through different paths - some of them from associating with ants and their aphid livestock, others through becoming isolated and evolved into a predatory niche in the absence of other carnivorous insects. To find out more about the fascinating story behind carnivorous caterpillars, you can listen to the radio segment I recorded yesterday on ABC New England for their segment "Creepy but Curious" here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-carnivorous-caterpillars

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ImpoStory (Impostor Story)
This is a piece which I drew for a radio segment here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/9-6-cbc-imposter-bees-and-birds where I talked about Cuckoo Bees and Cuckoo Birds.
Brood parasitism is common in the animal kingdom and it has independently evolved in many different lineages. This is where instead of raising its own offspring, a species exploits the parental provision and behaviour of another species.
Of course, this is not an easy life style, one does not simply imposes one's babies on another species and expect that they will take care of it. As a result, brood parasites have also evolved numerous strategies for bypassing the defensive mechanisms of their host/foster species. On the flip side, one does not get very far in evolution through raising the offspring of other species at the expense of your own, thus potential brood parasite hosts have also evolved their own counter-strategies.
For insects like cuckoo bees, their survival mechanism often come in the form of chemical mimicry. For birds like cuckoos, it involves mimicking both the visual and behavioural aspects of their host. In another words, brood parasites make their living by being fakes - by being impostors. In this 20 minute long radio segment, I talk about the fakery behind cuckoo bees and cuckoo birds - a story about impostors:
https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/9-6-cbc-imposter-bees-and-birds

Side note/Trivia: That drawing and its associated radio segment was also basically one big tribute/reference to the anime series Nisemonogatari...
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Long-Lived Vampire Of The Deep
Earlier today, I was on ABC New England recording a new episode of Creepy but Curious - a regular radio segment that I go on once a month to talk about the weird and wonderful animals that live on this planet. This week, I talked about the Vampire Squid - which you can listen to here: https://soundcloud.com/abcnsw/creepy-but-curious-the-vampire

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Imposter Stories
Earlier today, I was on ABC New England recording a new episode of Creepy but Curious - a regular radio segment that I go on once a month to talk about weird and wonderful animals. This week, I talked about Cuckoo Bees and Cuckoo Birds - animals that make a living by pretending to be something they are not. As usual, I also drew the art that goes with the radio segment, which you can see below. To find out more about these natural-born imposters, follow the link below to download an MP3 of that segment.
P.S. This will most likely be lost on most listeners, but there are numerous subtle references to the anime series Nisemonogatari which I have woven into that radio segment and its associating drawing. 

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Some Like It Hot
Earlier today, I was on ABC New England recording a new episode of Creepy but Curious - a regular radio segment that I go on every month to talk about weird and wonderful animals. This week, I talk about the Alvinellids - a family of segmented worms that thrive around deep sea hydrothermal vents, living at temperature and conditions that would normally kill most animals. As usual, I also drew the art that goes with the radio segment which you can see below. To find out more about these denizens of the deep sea, follow the link below to download an MP3 of that segment.
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