TWL Hiking Club| Mallards are Actually Really Awesome

Yes, you read the headline correctly! TWL Hiking Club Tuesdays are back! I have taken a break as the snow has taken over our lives in Minnesota. There are many people who embrace the snow here, but honestly, as of right now at least, neither Devon nor I are one of these people. As Spring is about a month away from beginning, we are excited to get back out on the trails and really appreciate what nature has to offer. This brings me to what our next several Tuesdays will be focused around: appreciating the nature. Of course I mean we can love and appreciate the raptors who swoop, the predators who stalk, and the more rare moose sighting. But! That is not what these will be about. So often, we ignore the more common wildlife sightings even though they are some of the coolest animals. I will be focusing on them and bringing the more urban of wildlife into focus.

Animal, Lake, Waterside, Bird, Waterfowl, Wild Birds

Today, we focus on the oh so common mallard. This is the duck that you and I know so well. The females are brown with the little streak of color, and the males have the iridescent green and deep navy blue. You know what I am talking about. They frequent local and distant ponds, lakes, and rivers. They are beautiful. If you live in America, I can guarantee you have seen a mallard. Many of us see them all the time and do not take the time to truly notice just how awesome they truly are.

Mallard, Anas Platyrhynchos, Drake, Green, Sparkle

What is cool is that almost all domestic ducks come from this species. If you eat duck, you can most likely thank the mallard. I know… I know… who could eat a cute creature like a mallard? Many people do, and it really is an animals whose species can take it. Additionally, they are a lot like humans in that they tend to be monogamous, but that isn’t always the case! Speaking of breeding, the males have an intense reproductive system that essentially works like a corkscrew. Talk about survival of the fittest!

Mallard, Ducklings, Duck, Chicks, Cute, Small, Little

When we think about animals, we often consider them with short life spans. Well, some mallards have been documented to live to their early twenties! They could live long enough to get college degrees, people! Tell me that isn’t awesome! How can one simply walk past a group of mallards without admiring them knowing this fact! I know I can’t!

PS–there bills look like tiny yellow dog masks.




#SundayFishSketch| Tripodfish

This #SundayFishSketch comes from Ichthyologist, Rene Martin. Visit her shop on InPrint to see more of her artwork or to order prints!

Meet the Tripodfish

Bathypterois grallator

Also known as the tripod spiderfish and the stilt walker, Bathypterois grallator is a deep sea dweller (900 to 4700 meters or approximately 2900 feet to 15400 feet) which uses its bizarre, elongated tail fin rays and its two stilt-like pectoral fins to perch itself on the ooze—the thick pelagic sediment consisting of the ground up and weathered fallen remains of upper-sea dwellers and other alien deposits from above.

The body of this fish reaches nearly 2 feet in length, however its extended fins can reach lengths of just over 1 meter. While the fins appear quite rigid, they can be quite flexible when they need to make a quick getaway. It is hypothesized that they are able to pump their fins full of fluid (try saying that 3 times fast) in order to stiffen them. They position themselves face first in the current on their tripod and wait in the darkness for their next meal. They don’t have special visual adaptations, rather they use their overhead fins as tactile sensors which they use to practically smack food into their mouths as they feel it approaching from upstream.

Being so down in the dark deep, finding a mating partner can be difficult sometimes. The tripodfish has developed a fascinating ability to change sex, say if a female comes across a female and a male is more in need, or even lay eggs, change to a male, and fertilize those same eggs. Pretty neat, huh?

S2E3| Animal Magnetism

In this episode, Devon and Richard explore the animal magnetism. No, not the kind you might be thinking. Instead, we’re talking about the surprisingly common animal superpower which allows creatures all around the world, from the skies to the oceans, to sense the magnetic field of our planet.

S2E2: Ant Farm

We as humans often think of ourselves as unique. In this episode, we discover that we may not be as unique, or advanced, as we thought as we learn about amazing subterranean fungi farmers, cowboy insects, and a 55 million year old relationship that puts our use (or misuse) of antibiotics to shame. Special thanks to our guest for the episode, Dr Cameron Currie of UW-Madison.

Want to check out the leafcutter ant cam, the fANTastic farmers game, or see more about Dr Cameron Currie’s research? Visit his website here.

Want to use this episode in the classroom? Listen for tips on how!



#SundayFishSketch| Rainbow Parrotfish

This #SundayFishSketch comes from Ichthyologist, Rene Martin. Visit her shop on InPrint to see more of her artwork or to order prints!

Meet the Rainbow Parrotfish

Scarus guacamaia

Scarus guacamaia - pone.0010676.g128

Aside from the species name guacamaia sounding quite a lot like guacamole, the two have nothing in common.

The rainbow parrotfish belongs to the broader parrotfish family of about 95 species, Scaridae. The guacamaia are among the largest at nearly 4 feet in length, living a sweet 16 year life in the waters of the western Atlantic ocean–from Bermuda, throughout the Caribbean, to Venezuela.

They inhabit seagrass beds, coral reefs, and mangrove forests at shallow depths of no more than 85 feet where they spend their time feeding on detritus (dead stuff) and the occasional sponge.

They are currently classified as Near Threatened by the IUCN.


Choat, J.H., Feitosa, C., Ferreira, C.E., Gaspar, A.L., Padovani-Ferreira, B. & Rocha, L.A. 2012. Scarus guacamaiaThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T19950A17627624. Downloaded on 20 January 2019.