Matthew L. Miller

Director of Science Communications

Page 52

  • Everyday Nature: Cartoonish Coot Chicks

    <b>Most baby birds, cute though they may be, are not exactly colorful</b>. This makes good evolutionary sense: Baby birds, unable to fly, make easy meals for predators. They thus must blend into their surroundings. A drake mallard or canvasback is a colorful, striking water bird, but baby ducks are nondescript. They disappear into the marshy reeds, making it harder for a hungry raccoon or mink to find them. <b>Not so the <a href="http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/american_coot/lifehistory">American coot</a></b>. Adult coots are fairly drab birds. But their babies? <b>They look like they were designed by a deranged tattoo artist.</b> The front half of the coot’s body is covered in orange-tipped plumes, giving them a jarring appearance. We’re not used to seeing baby birds covered bright feathers. <b>While this orange fades rather quickly</b>—in about six days—it still leaves them conspicuous when they are at the most vulnerable stage of their lives. This coloration makes them more susceptible to predation. <b>What advantage would such feathers possibly confer?</b>

    Matthew L. Miller

  • Big Fish: Roadside Pike

    Where could the pike possibly be? It turns out: In a roadside ditch.

    Matthew L. Miller

  • Big Fish: Rodent-Eating Trout

    Key up the Jaws soundtrack. For years, anglers have claimed Silver Creek's brown trout feed on rodents. Does the science back them up?

    Matthew L. Miller

  • A Bull Fight for Conservation

    Studying bison interactions may help managers make better decisions on fenced preserves and ranches -- where most bison roam today.

    Matthew L. Miller

  • A Rat-Free Palmyra Atoll

    Located 1,000 miles south of Hawai'i,Palmyra Atoll is one of the most spectacular marine wilderness areas on Earth.

    Matthew L. Miller