Friendly pitcher plants, bandicoot arms and the linguistics of taxonomy

Thursday, 30 July 2015 - 8:30am to 9:00am
A pitcher plant, Nepenthes hemsleyana, with a bat roosting inside it (Photo from Merlin Tuttle's Bat Conservation)

Carnivorous plants aren't always scary: some form mutually beneficial symbiotic relationships with animals. The Fanged Pitcher-Plant from Borneo, Nepenthes bicalcarata (yes it actually has fangs), provides a home for carpenter ants, Camponotus schmitzi. And another species, Nepenthes hemsleyana, "communicates" with bats to encourage them to roost inside it, then feeds off their poop.

Kathleen Garland, from the Weisbecker Lab at the University of Queensland, has been measuring bandicoot forelimbs, which are more diverse than those of other marsupial species. She explains how this supports the theory that marsupial forelimbs evolved to help them climb into their mother's pouch, because bandicoots are the exception to the rule.

We also give a shoutout to Heteropoda davidbowie and Wunderpus photogenicus as we look at some odd species names. This includes those named to insult people and tautonyms, i.e. those with repeated genus and species names (e.g. Rattus rattus, Bison bison and Gorilla gorilla gorilla), which is similar to the linguistic phenomenon of contrastive focus reduplication, as described in the famous Salad-salad paper ("It's tuna salad, not SALAD-salad").

Lost in Science team
Thursday 8:30am to 9:00am
Entertaining news and discussion about research that has impact on society and providing a wide range of science and technology news. Distributed nationally on the Community Radio Network.


Chris Lassig, Stuart Burns and Claire Farrugia.