Summer Reruns: Vocabulary Quiz

Buzz, Hoot, and Roar are taking a little summer break for the next couple of weeks. When we come back, we’ll have lots of cool things and more top-of-the-line art from our world’s best science artists to share with you. We wish we were back already so we could show you all the things we have to show you. Until then, it’s summer reruns! This week, brush up on your vocabulary to impress your friends. Quiz yourself! Then be a know-it-all!

Petrichor. Is it:

  1. the official scientific descriptive for the Elephant Man’s bones?

  2. a Petri dish that’s become a little “off color”?

  3. the word for the way it smells after it rains?

Get the answer here!


Polyphyodont. Is it:

  1. an animal that continuously replaces its teeth?

  2. a space-age binding compound used for waterproofing decks?

  3. a multi-colored avian species?

Get the answer here!


Actinopterygii. Is it:

  1. a not-so-great consolation prize on “The Price is Right”?

  2. the class of animals known as bony fish?

  3. neither of these things. Buzz Hoot Roar made that word up to sound smart.

Get the answer here!


Omphaloskepsis. Is it:

  1. the act of contemplating one’s belly button?

  2. a school of thought in which people are skeptical about the relevance of elephants?

  3. a group of individuals who, through a series of research-oriented expeditions, have scientifically proven the existence of Oompa Loompas?

Get the answer here!


By |May 27th, 2014|Vocabulary Friday|0 Comments

What’s the difference?

When it comes to some animals, it can be hard to say at first glance exactly what makes one group different from another. Besides, someone always breaks the rules (We’re talking to YOU, Mrs. Macaque!). That said, here’s a quick-and-easy guide to help you tell the general differences between some often-confused animal doppelgangers.

What’s the difference between . . .

a frog and a toad?


an ape and a monkey?


a turtle and a tortoise?


a wasp and a bee?


a dragonfly and a damselfly?


an ant and a termite?


an alligator and a crocodile?


Written by Roar, drawn by Christine Fleming.

Check our facts:

1. Frogs vs. Toads

2. Monkey vs. Ape

3. Turtle vs. Tortoise

4. Bee vs. Wasp

5. Dragonfly vs. Damselfly

6. Termites vs. Ants

7. Alligator vs. Crocodile


Christine Fleming is an illustrator whose work tends to have a whimsical feel with organic lines, delicate textures, and hidden details. She is currently writing and illustrating her first children’s book. You can see more of her work on her website, and follow her @might_could.

By |May 21st, 2014|Backbones, Bugs|13 Comments

Petrichor: Your new favorite word

Petrichor is Roar’s favorite word.


It comes from the Greek “petros,” which means stone, and “ichor,” which is the blood that flows through the veins of gods.


It’s the word for the smell that comes after a rain. You know that smell? The one that’s like the time you fell in love during the spring?


Or the way it feels to be quiet?


The smell of the earth, with plants and animals and dirt and rocks and clouds and everything? When it’s the thickest and lushest and fullest?


That’s petrichor.

Here’s what makes it:

  1. When it’s dry for a little while, plants release oils into the ground1,2.6a

  2. Scientists think these oils stop seeds from growing in tough, dry times36b

  3. Meanwhile, Actinobacteria kick the bucket when it’s dry, releasing something called geosmin46c

  4. When it rains, petrichor and geosmin are released from rocks and dirt, and we can smell it.6d

So it’s all that. Plus stones. Plus the blood that flows through the veins of gods.

By Roar

Check our facts!






By |May 16th, 2014|Other Science, Vocabulary Friday|8 Comments

When the solution is Indiana Jones’s worst nightmare

We all know Indiana hates snakes, but should he? Here, a couple of snake experts give us three big reasons why when it comes to snakes, the more the better.

1. More snakes = fewer venomous bites.


Here’s how it works: Non-venomous kingsnakes eat other snakes, like venomous copperheads. Where kingsnake populations drop, copperheads (and therefore perhaps potential for copperhead bites) leap. Keep your kingsnakes, folks!1

2. More snakes = less disease.


Snakes eat rodents. When that happens, researchers in Oklahoma say that incidence of rodent-borne disease like hantavirus and Lyme disease take a nosedive. They’re slick and smooth disease-weeding machines!

3. More snakes = more food for us.


While they weed disease, snakes are also scarfing down field pests and stored grain pests like some birds, mice, and rats.2,3,4

Despite these good deeds, Dr. Jones isn’t alone in hatin’ on the slink and sliver. Snakes remain one of humans’ most common phobias, and we may have evolved this fear to keep us safe in the olden days.5 But we’re not in the olden days anymore. We need to know more about snakes, to watch them without trying to kill them, to understand and appreciate their contributions to our backyards.





By Roar and David Steen.

Check our facts!

1 http://www.hljournals.org/doi/abs/10.1655/HERPETOLOGICA-D-13-00064

2 http://www.pnas.org/content/109/7/2418.short


4 http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/abs/10.1139/z96-113#.UzrlNVcvmuA

5 http://pss.sagepub.com/content/19/3/284.short

Meet our experts!

Dr. David A. Steen (@AlongsideWild) is a research fellow with the Alabama Natural Heritage Program; his research currently focuses on the conservation and ecology of the Indigo Snake, an animal that was recently reintroduced to the state. David blogs about his work and natural history […]

By |May 7th, 2014|No Backbones|4 Comments