strange behaviors

Cool doings from the natural and human worlds

  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

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Archive for the ‘Species Seekers Almanac’ Category

Celebrating Psychedelica: Live on The Leonard Lopate Show

Posted by Richard Conniff on March 7, 2017

Swims like a drunken sailor. (© David Hall/

I was a guest this afternoon on “The Leonard Lopate Show” on WNYC in New York, talking about species discovery.  The interview runs about 13 minutes and listening to it is definitely better than a sharp stick in the eye. (A courageous listener called in to tell one of the other guests that he didn’t like the sound of her voice. Thank goodness, I didn’t have a call-in segment.)

At one point, I talked about a favorite new species from 2009 named psychedelica. Here’s the background, from my previous post on the discovery:

Once again, science makes my day. Researchers have discovered a wonderful new fish in shallow water off the Indonesian island of Ambon, much visited by great naturalists of the past including Alfred Russel Wallace. And this one just makes you want to keep looking and looking, even in the same places everybody else has looked before, because Mother Nature is such a relentless joker.

University of Washington scientist Ted Pietsch has dubbed the discovery Histiophryne psychedelica because, well, just look at that face. Or consider its swimming behavior, which also suggests that it has been dabbling in mind-altering drugs. It doesn’t so much

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Posted in Conservation and Extinction, New Species Discoveries, Species Seekers Almanac, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Botanist Goes Missing In Action in Vietnam

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 31, 2014

Here’s a story I’d like not to have to add to the Wall of the Dead.  Please take a look, and pass on any information you may have.   It’s from the BBC:

Family of missing Argyll botanist Jamie Taggart renew appeal

A missing poster
Posters have been distributed around the town of Sapa

The father of a botanist from Argyll who went missing in Vietnam a year ago has asked anyone with any information to come forward.

Jamie Taggart, from the Linn Botanic Gardens at Cove on the Rosneath peninsula, was on a plant hunting expedition near the border with China.

Dr Jim Taggart said it would take “very freak circumstances” for his son to be found alive.

But he said “someone, somewhere must

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Posted in Species Seekers Almanac | Leave a Comment »

How Many, Noah? A Boatload.

Posted by Richard Conniff on August 24, 2011

Red throated barbet

For centuries scientists have pondered a central question: How many species exist on earth? Now, a group of researchers has offered an answer: 8.7 million.  This article by Oxford University researcher Robert May explains why it matters.

And this report from Juliet Eilperin at the Washington Post explains the new study:

Although the number is still an estimate, it represents the most rigorous mathematical analysis yet of what we know – and do not know – about life on land and in the sea. The authors of the paper, published last evening by the scientific journal PLoS Biology, suggest 86 percent of all terrestrial species and 91 percent of all marine species have yet to be discovered, described, and catalogued.

The new analysis is significant not only because it gives more detail on a fundamental scientific mystery, but because it helps capture the complexity of a natural system that is in danger of losing species at an unprecedented rate.

Marine biologist Boris Worm of Canada’s Dalhousie University, one of the paper’s coauthors, compared the planet to a machine with 8.7 million parts, all of which perform a valuable function.

“If you think of the planet as a life support system for our species, you want to look at how complex that life support system is,’’ Worm said. “We’re tinkering with that machine because we’re throwing out parts all the time.’’ Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Biodiversity, Conservation and Extinction, Evolution, Species Classification, Species Seekers Almanac | Leave a Comment »