Sundays Under the Whale: Jarod Miller
by AMNH on
On Sunday, May 15, zoologist and TV host Jarod Miller will bring a menagerie of extra-large animals to the Museum for the Milstein Science Series’ Sundays Under the Whale: Living Large program. Below, Miller answers a few questions about what it takes to live large.
You’re bringing several animals—a reticulated python, a mandrill, a jaguar, and an Eagle Owl. What are some of the factors that allowed these animals to become so large?
There are many factors that allow animals to grow large. Space, resources, available prey, and environmental conditions all contribute to an animal’s need and ability to grow big, compete, and evolve in a specific habitat. In the case of reptiles, climate plays a very important role because they are exothermic, or cold-blooded. Crocodiles, pythons, and Komodo dragons all live in regions with hot climates, which provide the ideal environment for growth.
Are large animals always at the top of the food chain in their ecosystem, or do they have predators, too?
Not all predators are large, and not all prey is small. Elephants are the largest land animal on Earth, and they are not predators, but their size reduces their chance of becoming prey. Lions are powerful predators, but can be vulnerable to other predators. And humans are not the biggest predator or prey but can determine the fate of all other animals.
What are some special or interesting adaptations of large animals?
In addition to size, a large animal’s success in the world depends on other adaptations. Jaguars are at the top of the natural food chain in South America but need to be well-camouflaged to ambush prey and survive to adulthood. Mandrills have developed a big brain and form families to compete in the African rainforest. The Eagle Owl’s size gives it the ability to feed on a wider range of larger prey, but its ability to see well at night gives the owl a bigger advantage over most other birds of prey. He is able to feed on an entirely different menu of choices as he works the night shift.
What is the largest animal that you have ever handled?
In addition to meeting whales in the ocean, my largest friends are elephants. Two of my favorites, whom I get to see, feed, and even ride from time to time, are Bubbles and Suzi, 9,000-lb African elephants.