Dinosaurs Wore Party Hats!



Little-known fact: Some dinosaurs wore hats.* And one group of duck-billed dinosaur had the best hats of all.

This hat (henceforth, we’ll call it a crest, for scientific accuracy) was not just any fancy accoutrement. Not at all. This crest contained the dinosaur’s nasal passages. That’s right; the dinosaurs breathed through a hollow crest on their head.

As an example, let’s take a look at the Parasaurolophus, who had the longest nasal passages of any animal ever, except for a large wooly mammoth.

Here’s how air makes its way from nose to lungs:


That is over four meters from nostril to lung.

Different shapes, colors, sizes and lengths of nasal passages: Why the variety?
These crests form the basis of communication.



*Not real hats, of course. Through evolution, the bones of their face extended, shrank and otherwise rearranged so a totally awesome crest grew on top of their heads.

By Terry “Bucky” Gates, a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and NC State University. He spends his time researching a wide variety of topics but one of his favorites is the crazy crests and spikes on dinosaurs and other animals. Follow him on Twitter, @terryagates, LinkedIn, and his series […]

By |September 17th, 2014|Backbones|0 Comments

Ant-Man’s Retinue: Ants That Have What it Takes to Fight Supervillains

In 2015, Hollywood plans to roll out a movie based on Ant-Man – a superhero who can shrink himself to the size of an insect and use a “cybernetic helmet” to communicate with ants.


There’s been a lot of talk about who should play Ant-Man (Paul Rudd!), but what about the ants? After all, it takes a special kind of arthropod to fight supervillains.


Consider these species that have what it takes to thwart evildoers.

Contender 1:


Contender 2:


Contender 3:Wang_UPDATED-2-argentine-ant-sheet

Guard your script, Paul Rudd!


Thanks to Lauren Rugani.

Check our facts!




*Note: The Maricopa harvester ant’s sting is so poisonous that as little as .01 milligrams per kilogram would probably kill a grown man.


Written by Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman (@shiplives) is a public information officer at North Carolina State University and a freelance science writer. He also writes the Communication Breakdown blog, which focuses on science communication. He lives near Raleigh, in a house full of humans.

Illustrated by Christina Wang

Christina Wang is an aspiring law-student who has no “objection” to making bad puns. She’s a student by day, artist by night, and nerd all the time. She lives in Southern California with her turtle and fish. Follow her on tumblr atplanetbob.tumblr.com

By |September 10th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments

Buzz Hoot Roar News: Check out Our Art Exhibition!

Get off your computers, folks! Buzz Hoot Roar has its first real-live exhibition! Some of our amazing artists’ work spans the walls at Raleigh, North Carolina’s Cameron Village Regional Library through the month of September!

With this show, we’re getting the SciArt word out in hard copy to bibliophiles, lonely people looking for dates, four year olds, and the rest of the Cameron Village Library crowd. 

You may remember such greats as Heather Copley’s decoding squirrel talk
Neil McCoy’s showcasing weird star seekers in Animals in Spaaaaace

Julia Rice’s examination of Belly Button Biodiversity


Robin Anders’ look into how birds navigate the Great Migrate


Artist in Residence Christine Fleming’s explaining What’s the Difference between commonly confused animals . . .


and demonstrating jumping spiders’ Sexy Spider Dance


Jaime Van Wart’s telling us why we just want to Squeeze It! 


and James Hutson’s showing us how charming fireflies can be (and why some of them light up!)


Thanks to all who share their talents with us. If you’re in town, go check it out!



By |August 28th, 2014|News|0 Comments

Stop with the Death Metal! You’re Not a Woodpecker!

Okay, people. No matter how much they’re shreddin’ it onstage, we know head banging is bad for us. But whether it’s from contact sports, car accidents, or clumsiness, head injury diagnoses seem to be on the rise (at least in the U.S.).

Woodbanger_1In addition to a killer skull shape that protects their brains, woodpeckers have beaks to beat the beat. These birds can slam their skulls into trees with an impact of about 1000g (that’s 1,000 times the force of gravity). Plus, some species hammer away for HOURS at a rate of up to 300 beats per second.


Here’s what they have going on that we need:


When it comes to cutting-edge, built-in safety measures, our heads just haven’t kept up. That’s why we say, until you expand your ribs and fix your eyeballs in place and develop a cushiony middleskull: Popping a wheelie? Pop on a helmet.


Written by Roar. Illustrated by Joshua Röpke from Austin, TX, who draws and does lettering with pens and sometimes brushes. He especially enjoys nature, DIY electronics, and succinct third-person synopses. For more birds and junk, check out:  www.jropke.com

Special thanks to Jordan Lite, who knows about head banging.

Check our facts!

N. Lee et al. Hierarchical multiscale structure-property relationships of the red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpescarolinus) beak. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. Published May 7, 2014. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2014.0274. http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/11/96/20140274#

S-H. Yoon and S. Park. A mechanical analysis of woodpecker drumming and its application to shock-absorbing systems.Bioinspiration & Biomimetics. Vol. […]

By |August 20th, 2014|Backbones|1 Comment

Why Are We Afraid of Spiders?


We don’t like all those legs and their creepily erratic ways of running around2. But why? Spiders don’t try to hurt us on purpose, and almost no spiders could hurt us if they tried.3 In contrast, our fear of spiders maybe hurting us has led to everything from minor freakouts to major birth defects.4,5

It turns out that we might not be able to help ourselves. Like Lady Gaga, some of us were born this way.


Plus, people with fraidy cat family members are more likely to be fraidy cats themselves, whether or not the fraidy cats grew up together.6


But evolution and heritability aren’t the whole story.


Nature and Nurture: Still BFFs!

*Spiderzillas don’t actually exist. We made them up because spiders don’t care about us and they never want to bite us in the face unless we’re being obnoxious and bothering them with our faces, but you’d probably want to bite them in the face if they were bothering you like that, too. Well, maybe not bite them in the face. You’d probably rather take a shoe to them. But you get the idea.

By Roar and Chris Buddle. Illustrated by Christine Fleming, Buzz Hoot Roar’s Artist in Residence. Follow Christine at @might_could and check out more of her work here.

Chris Buddle is a Professor at McGill University, in Montreal Canada. Chris does research on spiders, including recent work on arachnids living in the Arctic (yup, spiders live up there, too!). He’s been working with spiders for almost two decades and has never been bitten. […]

Japanese Beetles Are Shiny, Green Party Animals

Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) have been a big part of the U.S. spring and summer scene since the year Albert Einstein presented his Theory of General Relativity. (That was in 1916.)

These brilliant green insects emerge between late May and early June and spend the next six weeks eating, mating, eating, laying eggs … and eating.


The eating part can be a problem. Adult Japanese beetles eat the leaves and flowers of more than 300 plant species2, but they seem to have a particular fondness for ornamental plants beloved by homeowners – like roses.


When these insects chew on leaves, these leaves  release “don’t eat me” chemicals to ward off leaf eaters. But Japanese beetles take one whiff and consider them an “all friends welcome” invite.  It doesn’t take long for a hearty plant to be completely stripped of its leaves and blooms.


Their flowers’ “don’t eat me” chemicals cause temporary beetle paralysis that lasts 12-16 hours. Somehow, Japanese beetles prefer them anyway, and will do the ole eat-and-freeze until they trundle off to better food.

What’s a gardener to do?

Written by Buzz and regular contributor Matt Shipman

Matt Shipman (@shiplives) is a public information officer at North Carolina State University and a freelance science writer. He also writes the Communication Breakdown blog, which focuses on science communication. He lives near Raleigh, in a house full of humans.

Illustrated by Catherine Kehoe Arnold

Art by Catherine Kehoe Arnold. Catherine is a multi-disciplinary designer with a serious passion for craft and beauty. Generating inventive and creative design solutions are my areas of expertise. In […]

By |August 6th, 2014|Bugs|2 Comments

Pronking: The Happy Dance That Should Kill You (But Doesn’t)

Lambs do it, alpacas do it, even gazelles do it: pronking. Also known as stotting, that joyous all-four-hooves-in-the-air leap can be one of the happiest ways to signal a hoofin’ good time. Their spines are even built for it.


But pronking’s for more than just fun and games. When danger strikes, hooved animals will do a yipes-like pronk high in the air.

Does this make sense? If you’re being chased by someone, it would seem to make more sense to put your energy into forward motion than just pogo up and down in the same spot while Mr. and Mrs. Sharpteeth come nipping at your heels. Still, pronkers get chased less often, and when they are chased, they’re captured less often than those who just turn tail and flat-out run.


Here’s the thing: It takes a lot of energy to pronk. Get up and try it! It doesn’t take many boing boing boings to see that the best pronkers need to be in tip-top shape. Pronking is an example of honest signaling, which means good pronkers are saying, “You can try to catch me, but I’m in such good physical condition I’ll probably outrun you. See? I have all this energy that I can jump up and down here and don’t even need to run from you yet.”


And the predators say, “Oh. Ok. Thanks for the head’s up. I won’t waste my time. I’ll eat Mr. Slowpoke over here.”And then they do. And the meanest pronkers pronk for joy.


Elephants ATTACK!

Asian elephants kill, on average, nearly 400 people across India each year.1, 2

Migrating around Asia, they scarf down and stomp on people’s crops, smash their homes, and drink their liquor.


In all, elephants snarfle down the crops of at least 500,000 families in India each year (each elephant eats about 440 pounds of vegetation per day).1


The big meanies.

Except . . .

People kill elephants right on back. In addition to the more than 100 Asian elephant retaliatory killings each year, at least




are electrocuted on fences,






die from diseases like anthrax and trypanosomiasis they contract from human-owned cattle, and at least






are killed by trains (over 100 total elephants have died from trains). 2


Nobody knows how many more elephants die from getting trapped in human-dug drainage ditches, poaching, direct habitat loss, and more, so let’s not count those.

So . . .

Taking the largest estimate of total Asian elephant population today3 and the CIA’s estimate of the total population of Bhutan4 and India5, let’s compare the damage.

Elephants are 12,422 times more likely to die at the hands of humans than humans are to die from elephant-related causes.


And while humans have encroached on 80 percent of elephant-inhabited forests, elephants have damaged less than one millionth of one percent of Indian farmland. bHR_15


Maybe we’re the jerks.


Or maybe it’s a complicated problem. One that we can help fix.

How Many Does It Take?

Here at Buzz Hoot Roar, we love how humans measure everything and hand out superlatives. Today, we see how many of the biggest, longest, or tallest animals in their class (or order or family!) it would take stacked end-to-end to reach the top of some of our favorite landmarks. (It’s probably pretty important to know how many of the largest known bacteria it would take to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower.)

How many of the tallest dinosaur versus the biggest bacteria does it take to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower?



…and how many of the longest jellyfish versus the longest tapeworm does it take to stretch to the top of the Grand Canyon?



…and how many of the biggest mammal versus the tallest bird does it take to reach the top of the Statue of Liberty?



…and how many of the tallest marsupial and biggest ant does it take to reach the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa?



…and how many of the tallest land mammal and longest snake does it take to stretch to the tip of the Great Sphinx?



Meet our Contenders!

BHR-how-many-1-dinosaur-v2 BHR-how-many-1-giraffe-v2 BHR-how-many-1-ostrich-v2 BHR-how-many-1-snake-v2 BHR-how-many-1-tapeworm-v2 ”BHR-how-many-1-ant”

Hey, Hot Stuff!

hotstuff_v2-01 hotstuff_v2-02 hotstuff_v2-03 hotstuff_v2-04 hotstuff_v2-05 hotstuff_v2-06 hotstuff_v2-07

Check our facts!

1. http://chemse.oxfordjournals.org/content/11/3/371.short

2. http://www.pnas.org/content/105/33/11808.short

3. http://europepmc.org/abstract/MED/11473305/reload=0;jsessionid=IuKpuL7FE1NYrfBJnY2u.18


By Roar, illustrated by Hoot.