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Hank and Katherine talk about the wild cat known variously as a puma, mountain lion, cougar, panther and catamount and then Jessi from Animal Wonders brings a special animal guest to visit.

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HANK: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the SciShow Talk Show, where it's SciShow, and we talk.  Today joining me the studio is my wife, Katherine Green.

KATHERINE: Hello, it is me again.

H: Today, you have for me, I've heard, more cat stuff.

K: I...I have an endless supply of things about cats to talk about.

H: And then, we're gonna see an animal.  And my shirt may change color.

K: [laughs]

H: Cause we filmed these at different times of the day.

K: Time!

{intro music}

K: So, um, more cats.

H: Wildcats?

K: Yes.

H: Okay.


H: I typed in "wildcats" and it's all about sports teams.  We were the Wildcats, actually.  At Winter Park High School.

K: Yeah, well, it's a generic term.

H: Yeah, I mean, usually when you think about a wild cat, you're thinking about a big cat.

K: Exactly, that was...

H: You've got the lions and the tigers, and the cougars.  Or, whatever a cougar is.

K: Cougar is actually not within in the sub-family, Panthera.

H: Okay.  Panthers, though, they are.

K: They, it's actually Pantherinae.

H: Pantherinae.

K: And, uh...

H: I'm guessing that panthers are in that family.

K: (laughs) Well...

H: Sub-family.

K: No.

H: No?

K: It's a surprise, isn't it?

H: Ah!  Well, you should've tried to stump me.  Hank, are panthers in Panthera?  Then I would have definitely said no.

K: Yeah, jaguars and leopards are.

H: Huh.

K: And tigers and lions, obviously.  And then um, yeah, so everything else is actually in the sub-family Felinae.  Um, and there are about 32 other species of wild cats.

H: So the smaller cats...

K: The smaller cats, and also cheetahs, um, uh, puma, which is the actual name of the mountain lion.

H: Okay, so mountain lions,  Mountain lions, uh, panthers, uh, cougars...

K: Mm hm. Yep.

H: Anything else?

K: Catamount.

H: Catamount...

K: Is another colloquial name.

H: Those are all the same thing.  They're pumas.

K: Mm hm.  Puma concolor is the scientific name for that animal.  And then, there are actually a lot of different sub-species.  So...

H: Right, like Florida panther...

K: Yeah, you'll know that there's a Florida panther and there's a Texas cougar, and there's um, sub-species down in South America.  Um, but the Puma concolor is one of the most widely distributed cats, because it ranges all across the Americas.  Um, which is really interesting because a lot of the rest of them are so...

H: Small range.

K: Specifically developed.  That they only exist in small areas.

H: Okay.

K: But something about the um, the puma, uh, it was just able to...

H: Yeah.

K: Fit itself into all these, all these different areas.  And so, they can actually cross-breed, with one another, because they're not so widely diverged that they've become separate species.  But the sub-species can actually cross-breed.

So there was some problems with conservation of the Florida panther, which is a sub-species, which has specific, um, adaptations to the Florida habitat, um, cross-breeding with a Texas cougar that had escaped from a zoo, or they had just introduced it, uh, into the habitat.  So, it's still technically, a puma...

H: A sub-species.  Yeah.

K: But it has now has now sort of developed into something that's not exactly the Florida panther, not exactly the Texas cougar, but still sort of filling that...

H: Yeah.

K: ...niche in that area, which is, um, interesting because there aren't that many large carnivores in Florida.

H: Right, yeah.  Them and the alligators.

K: Mm hm.

H: Um, now it's time to see a real animal in the studio.

K: Oh, let's do it.

H: Let's see the real animal in the studio.

K: Bring it on.


H: Here we have Slither, which is a snake of some kind.  I don't know anything about this, I do not recognize this snake species.

JESSI KNUDSEN CASTANEDA: Well, that's great. Let's do... let's talk a little bit about her, and then we will tell you what she is.  So she lives in North America, she lives in Eastern Montana.

H: Okay.

J: She's the largest, or longest native know, North American snake.  They can get up to 7 feet long, and she likes to mimic the rattlesnake.

H: Uh huh, yeah I can see that it's like a...

K: Kinda, the pattern is similar. 

J: Similar color, and her tail here tries to pretend to be the, the coloration, but what's neat is, if she gets threatened, she's going to shake that tail as fast as she can against dry leaves, so it's gonna make like a "ch ch ch ch ch ch" noise.

K: Making a, a pseudo-rattle. Cool.

J: Yeah.  And then she can flatten her head.

K: Oh, wow.

H: For a more, rattlesnake shape.  I was assuming that you haven't brought in a poisonous snake.

J: You were hoping, you were hoping. (laughs)

H: I did notice that the head was a little bit broader than most um, non-poisonous snakes. It's just mimicking.

J: Yeah, you're right.  She is not poisonous, and in most places she would be called a gopher snake.  And other places she's called a bull snake.

H: Just 'cause.

J: She eats gophers.

H: Okay.

J: She would not eat a bull.

H: She would not eat a bull.

J: No.

K: Does she hide in gopher dens? Does she use those...

J: She might, she would go down into holes there, but...

K: Like, prairie dog holes, or things like that?

J: Yeah, she's mostly gonna hang out in, you know, the dry grasses.  She's gonna blend right in, you know, camouflage right into that scene there.  Would you like to hold Slither?

H: Sure.  Is that allowed?

J: Yes.


H: Oh, it's allowed, you just kinda go right over my shoulders, there.  I definitely won't drop her. Ooh, where you going? Where you going? That's the wrong way.

K: Over here.

H: Oh, you're... substantial.

J: Katherine, too?

K: Yeah.

H: {to snake} Where you going?

K: Yeah, it's amazing when you actually do touch them, 'cause it's just like, this all muscle.

H: All, just a rope of muscle.

K: It's all, so... it's unlike anything.

J: And she's got you [Hank] in a little hold over here.  Choke hold.

H: So is... a constrictor, is that the method of...

J: Yes. Yep, and you can tell she's a constrictor, she's got those muscles, she's gonna do a lot of, of bending and holding onto things. Um, and yep, she'll constrict.  So what she'll do, is for hunting-wise, she's going to use her tongue, and you know what they use their tongue for, right?

H: Scent.

J: Yep, they're gonna stick it out there, kind of like, like Velcro almost.  They just stick it out, and then all the little scent particles are going to stick to their tongue.

H: {to snake} Where you going?

K: Just around.

J: Just hanging out here.  There she is.

K: Not trying to choke you.  She's trying to get back to Jessi.

J: Comfy spot. Found a new friend.

K: Are you a little uncomfortable?

H: Not at all.  I trust you. I trust you, Slither.

J: She's a good girl.  And she's a good snake to trust, um, she was in a child's home for the first 16 years of her life.

H/K: Wow.

J: So she's almost 18 now.  So she's just used, she's used to everything, just hangs out.  But she is smelling the air a lot.  She sticks that tongue out, it's like Velcro, comes back in and goes into like, an inside nose, it's called a Jacobson's organ.  And so each one of those...

H: Flicks.

J: Yeah, it's gonna go into each... hole up there, I guess, and it's gonna be a GPS system for her. So she smells something...

K: But she has nostrils as well right?

J: They breathe through their nostrils.

K: Okay, that's just for breathing. Interesting.

J: There she goes.

H: Don't try to fight...don't try to fight her. {to snake} Where'd you go?

J: Fell down a little bit.

H: I was like "Oh, you should go this way," and she was like "No, I shouldn't."

J: Nope, I'm going this way.

H: I feel like I'm getting my blood pressure taken. 

J: She's pretty strong. So she's gonna find her prey that way, um she's gonna...

H: So you can actually like feel which side is closer to the thing.

J: Smell. Yeah, yeah. So if she smells it she's gonna turn this way.

H: Stereo scent.

J: And then she'll smell that way, and it it's both of them she will go straight forward and what she's gonna do she's gonna bring her body closer to whatever she's going after, and she's going to S her neck like this.

H: Keep her head in the same place. 

J: Yeah. And then she can do an extended, kinda like you arm, she can do extend and grab, do the strike. And they have really neat teeth, their teeth are not used for chewing, they're like this.

H: For holding.

J: Yeah, and she'll kinda walk that animal into her mouth. This jaw is absolutely amazing. The skeleton on this, on snakes, is really really really neat. Um, so many points of flexion that they can do. So they're gonna expand down here, it's going to be like on rubber bands. And then they have this line on the bottom of their face there and that is used for... So it stretches out like this and it's going to stretch open like that, and they're going to bring their whole lower jaw over that animal, walk it in with their teeth, and pull it down their body into their stomach, which is about right here.

H: So it's all the way down there?

K: And that's just through muscular...motions that they bring it back down into their stomach?

J: Yeah, so, that once they get it in their mouth, they'll push it, they'll actually move their body like this, and push it down. You can see this big lump. And push it down past their neck and past their heart, and down into their stomach, which is about down here, yeah.

H: Exhaling. Um, so why is the stomach so far down the body?

J: Would you like to hold it, Katherine? 
H: Um, well, they're just very long...

K: Just long. Gotta get it down there somewhere.

H: And so their, uh, their neck is long and their heart is going to be a little long. 

K: {to snake} Hey, where you going?

H: Their heart is long? 

J: {to snake} There you go.

H: {to snake} See that table? That's good, right?

J: [laughs] Everything's kind of stretched out in snakes, so they have two lungs but they only use one.

K: {to snake} Good girl.

J: And so that one lung kind of sits along the side of their body and it runs a good length of their body. And so every...

K: {to snake} So pretty!

J: ...all of their organs are kind of stretched out so that's why it just expands a greater distance than, you know, a big area.

H: Mm hm. That's crazy. Yeah.

K: {to snake} There you go.

J: And they have backbone and they have ribs that go almost the whole length of their entire body.

H: Yeah.

K: She's looking good.

H: Yeah!

K: She is a good-looking snake. {to snake} We can be friends.

H: [chuckles]

K: Yeah!

H: Slither, it was a pleasure to have you on SciShow today. And thank you, Jessi, from Animal Wonders, for bringing her in.

J: Thanks for having us.

H: Very cool.

K: {to snake} Thanks for the cuddles.

[All laugh]


H: Thank you for watching this episode of the SciShow Talk Show. Thank you to Katherine for coming in and sharing more cat things with us.

K: My pleasure!

H: And thank you, of course, to Jessi from Animal Wonders. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. We'll see you next time. My shirt changed colors.

{closing music}