On first impression, skeleton shrimp anatomy is confusing. These crustaceans use a funky assortment of body parts to move around like inchworms, feed on bits of sea garbage, stage boxing matches, and make lots of clingy babies.
Tadpole shrimp are neither tadpoles nor shrimp. They’re time-traveling crustaceans called triops. Their eggs can spend years – even decades – frozen in time, waiting to hatch. When California rice growers flood their fields, they create the perfect conditions for hordes of these ravenous creatures to awaken.
Under the bright yellow petals of a tarweed plant, an insect known as the assassin bug kills its caterpillar victim by stabbing it over and over. But does this perpetrator have an accomplice? Sticky droplets all over the plant could be a clue.
Most damselflies prefer sunny spots, but the quirky San Francisco forktail damselfly digs the fogginess of its hometown. When they hook up, they do it in style – linking their delicate bodies in a heart shape, then flying tandem for an hour or more after.
Horseshoe crabs may look scary, but when it’s springtime in Delaware Bay, millions of these arthropods show they’re lovers, not fighters. They lay masses of blue-green eggs up on the shore. At just the right time, they pop and release the larvae within to the sea.
While you’re enjoying a day at the beach, female bumblebee-mimic digger bees are hard at work nearby building a different kind of sandcastle. This one’s not for play – it’s part of the nest where their offspring will grow.
Native to the lakes of Mexico City, the axolotl stays in the water its whole life, swimming with a tail fin and breathing through frilly external gills. It’s nearly extinct in the wild, but survives in research labs the world over, studied for its amazing regenerative abilities. With our help, can these beloved creatures thrive once again in their ancestral home?
Hermit crabs are obsessed with snail shells. These crafty little crabs, found in California's rocky intertidal zone, are more than happy to let the snails build them a perfect home. When the crabs find a snail shell they like, they hop right into their new abode.
The devilish caterpillars of the pipevine swallowtail butterfly *devour* the California pipevine, never mind that the plant is trying to poison them. Their butterfly moms don’t pollinate the pipevine in return, though. So, the vine traps unlucky gnats in its labyrinthine flowers to do the job.
Look past their grasping claws and lightning-fast stingers, and you’ll see scorpions have a delicate pair of comb-like organs on their belly called pectines. These sensory body parts help them navigate, and figure out who’s a menace, a meal or a mate.
Could this tiny creature, named after a mythical multiheaded monster, hold the secret to eternal youth? Related to jellyfish and anemones, the hydra has an almost otherworldly ability to heal itself and stave off aging.
This fly’s larvae tunnel inside bitter-tasting greens like arugula and kale, leaving squiggly marks behind. The plants fight back with toxic chemicals. So before laying her eggs, the fly mom digs into a leaf and slurps its sap – a taste test to find the least toxic spot for her offspring.
Female aphids are the matriarchs of a successful family operation — taking over your garden. But don’t lose hope; these pests have some serious predators and creepy parasites looking to take them down.
What *is* that bizarre fish-shaped thing squirming in your sink at night? Firebrats and silverfish are pretty darn similar to some of the earliest insects on Earth. With three long filaments poking out their back, no wings and mini-me babies, they have something to teach us about survival.
As the sun sets, hordes of tiny crustaceans called beach hoppers – also known as sand hoppers – emerge from underground burrows to frolic and feast. They eat so much decaying seaweed and other beach wrack that by morning all that’s left are ghostly outlines in the sand.
Two tiny mites duke it out on strawberry plants throughout California. One is a spider mite that sucks the juices out of the delicious crop and destroys it. The other, persimilis, is a crafty predator that growers drop by the thousands from high-tech drones to protect their fields.
California oak moth caterpillars eat all the leaves on an oak, leaving a brown skeleton. Then they rappel down on a strand of silk, twirling and swinging. If you were enjoying the shade, good luck getting out of their way. For the oak, the caterpillars are a bigger deal –– will the tree survive?