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Tales of Termites

Termites are one of the planet's best recyclers. Yes, we usually think of these insects as something that destroy homes and need to be exterminated. It turns out that these critters are tiny 'green machines' that are critical to the planet. Dr. Biology learns about the history, social nature, and the important role termites have from entomologist, Barbara Thorn.

Content Info | Transcript


MP3 download | 14MB

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Topic Time
Introduction. 00:00
Why do we talk about insects so much? 01:08
Why do you study termites? 01:40
Tropical rainforest termites. 02:24
Termites help aerate soil. 04:02
More reasons termites are important to study. 04:15
What happens when colonies of termites meet? 06:28
Evolution of termites. 08:13
Social insects and Darwin's natural selection. 09:08
Learning about science. 10:54
Think of science like a video game. 12:09
How did you start working on termites? 12:42
Did you know you'd stick with termites? 13:15
The benefits of basic research. 14:00
Science mixed with business. 14:42
How many patents do you have? 17:09
New ideas that turn into a societal benefit. 17:14
Explaining "eusocial." 17:54
Non-insect eusocial animals. 20:22
Are termites long-lived in the eusocial world? 21:15
Have respect for termites. 23:05
Three questions. 23:49
When did you know you wanted to be a biologist? 23:56
If you couldn't be a biologist, what would you be? 25:57
What advice would you have for a students looking to get into science? 27:42
Sign-off. 28:36

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Tales of Termites

Audio editor: CJ Kazilek

What's a Biologist

Biologists study everything from tiny organisms to whole ecosystems. Let's take a closer look at what biologists do and how you can become a biologist.

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Learning from Darwin's Finches

The Galápagos Islands are home to some of the most amazing plants and animals. One group of animals, the Galapagos finches, have been the focus of biologists ever since Darwin wrote about them in his book, On the Origin of Species. Dr. Biology had the opportunity to sit down with Peter and Rosemary Grant to talk about the more than 30 years they spent studying what have come to be called Darwin’s finches. Don't miss listening to this Robinson Crusoe and Swiss Family Robinson adventure that includes the Grants' two children.

Content Info | Transcript


MP3 download | 15MB

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Topic Time
Introduction. 00:00
How long did you spend researching finches in the Galapagos? 01:50
Which islands do you work on? 02:16
Daphne Island. 02:43
What's it like living on Daphne Island? 03:28
Misunderstandings of evolution. 05:06
Did you know you'd see evolution in action? 05:44
Observations on fast evolution. 06:18
What were you measuring? 07:09
Is "survival of the fittest" a good phrase to use? 07:54
What happens when the environment changes again? 09:14
Beak variation. 10:54
Darwin's finches in the Galapagos Islands. 11:50
How do you catch the finches and what do you measure? 12:49
How many birds have you captured? 13:48
Vampire...finches? 13:56
Other interesting finches. 15:02
Do you have a favorite finch? 16:15
How the finches learn certain behaviors. 17:40
Did your whole family collect data on the finches? 18:07
Choosing to grow up visiting the Galapagos. 18:38
Immersing the kids in nature and science. 19:14
Independence in science can make a big difference for kids. 20:03
Funny stories in the Galapagos. 20:16
Three questions. 22:15
Rosemary, when did you first know you wanted to be a biologist? 22:26
When Peter first knew he wanted to be a biologist. 23:36
Peter, if you couldn't do science or teach, what would you do? 24:46
Rosemary, if you couldn't do science or teach, what would you do? 26:22
Peter's advice to people interested in biology. 27:07
Rosemary's advice to people interested in biology. 29:19
Sign-off 30:28

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Learning from Darwin's Finches

Audio editor: Eric Moody

Metamorphosis Bits

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Metamorphosis Bits

By Carole Flores

show/hide words to know

  • Adult: fully grown.
  • Complete metamorphosis: a change in body form with four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult.
  • Egg: a female gamete, which keeps all the parts of a cell after fusing with a sperm.
  • Exoskeleton: hard body covering... more
  • Incomplete metamorphosis: a change in body form with three stages: egg, nymph, and adult.
  • Larva: the second, "worm-like" stage in the life cycle of insects that undergo complete metamorphosis (like caterpillars).
  • Metamorphosis: dramatic change in body form... more
  • Pupa: resting stage during which tissues are reorganized from larval form to adult form. The pupa is the third body form in the life cycle of insects that undergo complete metamorphosis (like caterpillars).

Flashcard facts and information about metamorphosis

Biology Bits stories are a great way for you to learn about biology a little bit at a time. We’ve broken down information into pieces that are very tiny—bite-sized biology cards. Cutting out the cards will let you organize them however you want, or use them as flashcards while you read.


You can also download Biology Bits in the following formats:

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You're right, GMOs have been in the news more often lately, probably because more people are starting to question what GMOs are and whether or not they are safe to eat.

Question From: Jamie
Grade Level: 10

Have a different answer or more to add to this one? Send it to us.

All images via Wikimedia Commons. GloFish by www.glofish.com. 

Cute Colorful Poison Dart Frogs and Their Mimics

They might be colorful. They might be cute to some people. But don’t let that fool you. These bright colored frogs are poisonous. Dr. Biology talks with biologist Molly Cummings to learn about her work with some frogs that advertise to predators to stay away and other frogs that take advantage of this signal by copying the colors of their poisonous cousins.

Content Info | Transcript


MP3 download | 14MB

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Topic Time
Introduction. 00:00
Poison dart frogs. 01:24
Don't touch these frogs. 01:48
Why are there different colored frogs of the same species? 02:08
Three frog mimicry system. 02:51
Mimicry system: chicken behavior experiment. 03:50
Predators learning to avoid colors. 04:29
Evolution of different colors. 04:44
What can drive this change in color? 05:13
Can color vision affect evolution of color? 05:41
Sexual selection affects color. 06:22
How brightness and color are related. 06:50
Sexual selection vs. natural selection. 07:38
What colors do the frogs see? 08:01
Day vs. night vision. 09:08
Night vision and color vision. 10:04
Why poison dart frogs? 10:54
How to catch poison dart frogs. 11:25
Are these frogs active at night? 12:08
Is there a more popular color among these frogs? 12:26
Do different colored frogs mate with each other? 13:50
Do you travel often for your research? 14:15
Revisiting the three frog mimicry system. 14:51
More on chicken behavior experiments. 16:17
Scarab beetle research. 17:34
Scarab beetles and Avatar. 18:13
Polarized light. 19:03
Beetles and polarized light. 20:29
The early days of stereo images. 22:13
Three questions. 23:06
When did you first know you wanted to be a biologist? 23:16
What would you do if you couldn't be a scientist or teacher? 24:25
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be a scientist? 25:21
What's your math background and how do you use math? 26:12
Sign-off 27:49

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Cute Colorful Poison Dart Frogs and Their Mimics

Audio editor: CJ Kazilek

Budding Biologists

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Budding Biologists

If you're interested in becoming a biologist, we've gathered a few resources that might help you out. 

If you're just starting out, you may be wondering what exactly a biologist does. Visit our story, What's a Biologist? to learn what biologists do, what jobs are available, and some of the ways you can pursue biology as a career.

Looking into Lucy

First it was a knee bone, then a piece of an elbow. An anthropologist saw deep into the past when he discovered a skeleton in Ethiopia that represented a group of human ancestors. Dr. Biology talks with anthropologist Donald Johanson about the bits and pieces of Lucy and the interesting past that arose with her bones.

Content Info | Transcript


MP3 download | 13MB

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Topic Time
Intro 00:00
What is paleoanthropology? 00:50
Learning about anthropologist field work. 01:27
When and where Lucy's skeleton was found. 02:08
The puzzle of putting skeletons back together. 03:23
How did Lucy differ from modern humans? 04:17
How old was Lucy when she died? 05:24
Are teeth bones? 06:06
What did Lucy eat? 06:33
Eating insects. 07:26
What climate did Lucy experience? 07:41
When did humans start using language? 08:18
How we know when language developed. 08:48
Humans and apes have an ape-like common ancestor. 09:30
How do you decide what makes a different species? 11:23
Other early human species. 12:51
Where are Lucy's bones? 13:21
Cast of Lucy at the Institute of Human Origins (ASU). 13:55
Other locations to see casts of Lucy's bones. 14:61
How Lucy was named. 14:38
Beatles in the dark. 15:39
How is Neanderthal pronounced? 15:46
Hominid vs. Hominin 16:31
Taxonomy on Ask A Biologist . 17:21
Are humans still evolving? 17:28
Three questions 18:39
When did you first know you wanted to be an anthropologist? 18:49
What would you be if you could not be an anthropologist? 20:34
The inspiration of telescopes. 21:33
What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an anthropologist? 22:13
The importance of having a mentor. 23:21
Do you have to go to Africa for paleoanthropology work? 24:04
Moving out of Africa. 24:52
When did people first reach North America? 25:17
Sign-off 25:43

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Looking into Lucy

Audio editor: CJ Kazilek

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