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The Animal Kingdom

BILL KURTIS, BYLINE: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME. The NPR News quiz. I'm Bill Kurtis and here's your host at the Norse Theater in San Francisco, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Bill. Thank you everybody. So listen - thank you. So I recently got a dog for the first time since I was a kid, and it had an interesting effect. It made me stupid.

KURTIS: (Laughter) That explains it.


SAGAL: Anyway, the point is, all of a sudden since getting a pet of my own, I delight in everything having to do with animals - kitten videos, puppy pics, anything.

KURTIS: When I have an urge to commune with animals, I ride my stallion, Cronkite, around my estate.


KURTIS: But whatever floats your boat, Peter.

SAGAL: So, today on the show - animals of all kinds. We'll begin with some questions we asked our various panelists over the last year or so about antics among the other species.


SAGAL: Paula, when people talk about romance, they often talk about lovebirds. But according to a new study, it turns out that not only are birds not very romantic, but they often do what?

PAULA POUNDSTONE: Kill each other.


SAGAL: That's true, but we knew that. This is more about romance than...

POUNDSTONE: About romance?

SAGAL: Yeah.

POUNDSTONE: They often...

SAGAL: ...Or the lack thereof.

POUNDSTONE: Lose one another's phone numbers.


CARL KASELL, BYLINE: Or simply don't call back.


SAGAL: Yeah, I'll give you a hint...

POUNDSTONE: They retweet. They retweet a lot.


SAGAL: I'll give you a hint.


SAGAL: Generally speaking, in most cases, the early bird gets half the worm and hatchling visitation rights every other weekend.

POUNDSTONE: They break up?

SAGAL: They break up. They get divorced, yeah.


POUNDSTONE: Oh, birds - lovebirds get divorced?

SAGAL: Apparently, yeah. That's true.

POUNDSTONE: I think that makes all the sense in the world.

SAGAL: Well, according to a study in the journal "Current Biology," bird relationships - just as messed up as human ones. Birds tend to cheat on each other, and they even get divorced, leading to generations of latchkey eggs.


POUNDSTONE: What's the value of knowing that birds divorce?


SAGAL: Well, what they're trying to do, is they're trying to ascertain the mating habits of birds. And what they have discovered is - remember...



KASELL: I mean, what business is it of theirs?


SAGAL: What's the purpose of any advance in human knowledge?

POUNDSTONE: But why do you want to know the mating habits of birds?

KASELL: I mean, don't ask, don't tell is what I say.


POUNDSTONE: Really. Leave them alone.


POUNDSTONE: Can a bird not have a little bit of privacy?

SAGAL: Well, remember we used to think sometimes, like swans.

POUNDSTONE: I never thought that.


POUNDSTONE: What do you mean we? I never even gave the length of a bird's relationship any thought at all, frankly.


KASELL: And how do you tell swans apart? Do you need to see two of them going by together?

POUNDSTONE: They are still together aren't they.


KASELL: And how do you tell swans apart? I mean, you see two of them going by together, you know. I mean...

POUNDSTONE: Yeah, look at them. They're still together, aren't they?


KASELL: How do you know that's the same swan?

POUNDSTONE: How the hell do they do it? Look at them.

KASELL: Are they out there spray painting the swan? They don't know. They're birds.


KASELL: Not a lot going on upstairs.

POUNDSTONE: You know, my manager, her car used to park on the street, and every day, for a long time, there was a bird that was breaking its little beak on her rearview mirror 'cause it would see itself and go, you know, try to make out.


POUNDSTONE: That's not a bright animal.

ROXANNE ROBERTS: It could be a teenager.

POUNDSTONE: Yeah. It could...

KASELL: It could be a teenage bird. That's true.


POUNDSTONE: It could've said, this is a different bird from yesterday.


SAGAL: He's back, maybe.

POUNDSTONE: Look at me. Every bird wants me.


SAGAL: Roy, according to research published in the science journal Nature, it was just 380 million years ago that two lonely sea creatures did what for the first time?

ROY BLOUNT JR.: Two lonely schoolteachers?



BLOUNT: Sea creatures, sea creatures.

SAGAL: Sea greater, sea creatures.

BLOUNT: Sea creatures.


SAGAL: I guess your version could have happened as well.

BLOUNT: I had an answer for the school teachers. I don't know.

TOM BODETT: Well, a lot of sea creatures are found in schools.

BLOUNT: There you go, that's true. That's true. I think I read this. I think - was it intercourse?

SAGAL: You're right, yes.


SAGAL: Scientists...

BLOUNT: I was going to say that for the school teachers.


BLOUNT: I should have just gone ahead and answered, and we could have moved on by now.


SAGAL: Scientists have wondered where mating actually evolved, and they now believe it was longer ago than they thought. They've been studying the fossils of the shark-like placoderms - that's a now-extinct fish. And they found what they believe to be fossilized evidence that those ancient fish actually mated. Prior to this discovery, most researchers believed copulation began sometime around 1964...



SAGAL: ...On or around the release of the first Rolling Stones record.

BLOUNT: Right, right.

POUNDSTONE: You can't just say that. Like, oh, they think it happened - and what makes them think that?

SAGAL: Well, good question. There are two things


SAGAL: First of all, they found some rather complicated, technical, anatomical features in the fossils that are common to fish that were able to do that. And also, they found a fossilized letter from a magazine called Placoderm Forum.


SAGAL: And it starts: This has never happened before but...


SAGAL: So you know.


SAMUEL E WRIGHT: (Singing) Under the sea. Under the sea. Darling it's better down where it's wetter, take it from me.

SAGAL: Ken, this week we learned about a North Carolina couple headed to Hawaii to have their baby. They're headed there because they want their baby to be delivered by what?

KEN JENNINGS: I did see this. They want the baby delivered by dolphins.

SAGAL: That's correct.


SAGAL: It's dolphin-assisted childbirth.



SAGAL: The couple will stay at the Sirius Institute, a group organized with the purpose of, quote, "dolphinizing" the planet and taking money from crazy people.


SAGAL: The idea is that the couple will swim with a dolphin pod, they'll be there in the water and when the time comes for the baby to be born, the dolphins will help with the birth.

KURTIS: I happen to know about dolphins a little bit, which is that's how they - you have a midwife dolphin that swims along with the...


KURTIS: ...No seriously, expecting dolphin. And when the - because they breath air, dolphins, you know.

SAGAL: I know that, yes.

KURTIS: So when the baby comes out, the midwife dolphin flips it up in the air so it's first breath is of air and not water. Now how they do it with a baby I don't know.



SAGAL: So you're telling me like this woman's going to give birth in the water and the dolphin's going to flip the infant...


DICKINSON: Now, wait.

SAGAL: So they will know the baby is born. Everyone from the shore there she blows.


SAGAL: So they'll know the baby is born watching from the shore when all of a sudden it's like, oh there she goes.


SAGAL: Newborn infant. Like a Polaris missile headed for the top of the water.


JENNINGS: You got to get the shark in to cut the cord and then everybody's happy.


JENNINGS: And do the circumcision.

SAGAL: Of God.


SAGAL: A shark mohel.


SAGAL: Here comes a little shark with a yamaka. I love that.


LIAM LYNCH: (Singing) Man it's really great to be a dolphin, 'cause dolphins get to play and splash around. Oh yes we do. We love to - play all day and jump. And when we're splashing, we love to swim and play and goof around. That's what we do. Now when you - take a bath, you'll be laughing, and splashing just like us dolphins do.

SAGAL: The family of escape artists blank is opposing plans to exhume his body.

BODETT: Harry Houdini.

SAGAL: Right. A shoplifter trying to make a clean getaway from a Seattle Linens and Things...


SAGAL: ...Was foiled when his girlfriend blanked.

BODETT: Told him he'd snatched the wrong colored towels.


SAGAL: No. Dropped her pet duck.


SAGAL: Yeah. Well, here's a warning to all you criminals.

ADAM FELBER: ...How many times did I tell it before we did this job? We rehearsed it time and time again. Don't drop the duck, I said. Just hold - all you got to do is hold onto the duck and (unintelligible).


FELBER: Geez, I can't believe it.

BODETT: You'd think you could belt the duck to you and then, you know, it'd be like a hands-free sort of thing then.


FELBER: Next time I knock over a linen store, no ducks.


FELBER: In retrospect, that was the most deeply flawed part of our plan.


SAGAL: The Seattle man robbed the store while his girlfriend and her duck, Peepers, shopped at the Petco next door, you see. When the girlfriend dropped Peepers in the parking lot during the getaway, helpful Petco employees rushed to Peeper's assistance. They caused a chain reaction of crashes and accidents that completely fouled up the heist.

SAGAL: Yes in an attempt to control squirrel populations in Palisades Park California, officials are blanking.

DICKINSON: Injecting them with...


DICKINSON: ...contraceptive hormones.

SAGAL: You're right.


BODETT: Was that a guess?

DICKINSON: I did read the paper.


SAGAL: She got it right.

BODETT: Awesome.

SAGAL: Yeah, they have too many squirrels, they want to do something humane. They're going to inject birth control hormones into the squirrels. Officials decided on using injections after they discovered that their earlier plan had failed because the female squirrels were storing the birth control pills in trees and forgetting where they put them.


DICKINSON: Couldn't they just get, like, the Beverly Hillbillies to come over and shoot some?

SAGAL: No, this is California. They don't do that.

BODETT: You know, anyplace but - if you could catch a squirrel and hold him still long enough to give him a contraceptive shot, he could also just killed him.

DICKINSON: Right, that's what I'm thinking.


DICKINSON: You can wring his little neck.


DICKINSON: Not that you would, but...

SAGAL: No, no. No, no, this is California. They gave this girl family planning. They did counseling.

DICKINSON: I know. And a talking to.

SAGAL: Yeah, a talking to.

DICKINSON: A very stern talking to.

FELBER: A little pamphlet, tiny little pamphlet.



FELBER: Post-it size pamphlet.


FELBER: Pamphlet entitled Straight Talk About Nuts.



FELBER: Thank you. Good night.


THE FOUR SEASONS: (Singing) Peanuts, peanuts uh-uh-uh-uh-uh. Peanuts, peanuts uh-uh-uh-uh-uh. Peanuts, peanuts, yes you're my girl. Love you and I'll never let you go. Peanuts, peanuts...

SAGAL: Coming up, we attempt to answer the eternal question - do lizards have a personality? And one of our best Not My Job's ever with veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald.

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We'll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT ...DON'T TELL ME from NPR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.