Animal Weaponry, Through The Ages

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With guest host Jane Clayson.

The vampire deer, and beyond.  Animals and their impressive natural weaponry: antlers, horns, tusks, and more.

A recent study in the journal Oryx revealed the mysterious Kashmir musk deer has been spotted in parts of Afghanistan. (WCS / Julie Larsen Maher)
A recent study in the journal Oryx revealed the mysterious Kashmir musk deer has been spotted in parts of Afghanistan. (WCS / Julie Larsen Maher)

Animals have natural weaponry: antlers, tusks, teeth and beyond. How does a crab end up with a crushing claw equal to the size of the rest of its body? What is about a tiny piranha teeth that lets it take down much bigger prey? From the giant mandibles and horns of dung beetles to the outsize antlers of the Irish Elk, our guest today evolutionary biologist Douglas Emlen,  says animals are sucked into their own biological arms races ---just like us  humans. This hour, On Point: saber-tooth tigers and bighorn sheep, animal weapons, animal arms races.
-- Jane Clayson


Douglas Emlen, professor of biology at the University of Montana. Author of the new book, "Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle."

Vicki Constantine Croke, animals and wildlife reporter for WBUR Boston's "The Wild Life" blog. Author of "Elephant Company" and "The Lady and the Panda." (@VickiCroke)

From The Reading List

Science News: 'Animal Weapons' examines evolution of natural armor — "The animal world is full of examples of extreme weaponry: the mantis shrimp’s supersonic punch, the fiddler crab’s giant claw, the African elephant’s long tusks. These weapons have evolved as the result of biological arms races lasting millions of years."

New York Times:The Astonishing Weaponry of Dung Beetles — "Males of all dung-beetle species face intense battles for opportunities to feed and mate, but the context of these battles differs. A male Scarabaeus pius, for example, carves a hunk from a dung pile, sculpts it into a smooth orb and rolls it away from the competition. If he’s lucky, a female will join him as he leaves, often clinging to the ball and somersaulting along for the ride. When the pair reach a suitable patch of moist soil, they’ll bury the ball, then mate and place eggs beside the hidden dung, as fodder for their unborn offspring."

LiveScience: Deer With 'Vampire Fangs' Spotted For First Time in Decades -- "An endangered deer with vampirelike fangs was spotted for the first time in nearly 60 years, in a remote forest in northeastern Afghanistan.The fanged creature is known as the Kashmir musk deer, and it's native to the Himalayas of northern India, Pakistan's Kashmir region and northern Afghanistan. Only the male deer have fangs, and they use them during mating season to compete for females."

Watch A Single Porcupine Fend Off 17 Lions

Read An Excerpt Of "Animal Weapons" By Douglas Emlen

This program aired on November 7, 2014.


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