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Big Picture Science

Okay you ani­mals, line up: stoned sloths, play­ful pan­das, bale­ful bovines, and vile vul­tures. We’ve got you guys pegged, thanks to cen­tral casting. 

Or do we? Our often sim­plis­tic view of ani­mals ignores their remark­able adap­tive abil­i­ties. Stumbly sloths are in fact remark­ably agile and a vulture’s tricks for ther­moreg­u­la­tion can’t be found in an out­doors store. 

Our igno­rance about some ani­mals can even lead to their suf­fer­ing and to seem­ing­ly intractable prob­lems. The South Amer­i­can nutria was brought to Louisiana to sup­ply the fur mar­ket. But the species got loose and tens of mil­lions of these rodents are destroy­ing the envi­ron­ment. It lit­er­al­ly has a boun­ty on its tail.

Hear about research that cor­rects a menagerie of mis­un­der­stand­ings about our fel­low fur­ry, feath­ered, and scaly ani­mals, and how get­ting over our­selves to know them bet­ter can have prac­ti­cal ben­e­fits. Will you still recoil from ter­mites if you learn that they are rel­e­vant to the future of robots, glob­al warm­ing, and smart design?