In the game of life, every species is like an action figure. You got your dogs and your dung beetles, your bald eagles and your blueberries. And for a long time scientists believed it was pretty much impossible for those action figures to mix and make a new kind of action figure that was able to have its own babies (dog beetles? Baldberries? Nah). But, today we tell the story of a four-legged beast in Kentucky whose existence is upending scientific beliefs. If you want a big fat SPOILER, here it is: the creature in question is a mule! After almost 20 years of living her life as a hybrid (a mix between a horse and a donkey), believed to be incapable of having babies, Peanut the mule shocked the world by doing the impossible. Peanut’s owners, Teresa and Jerry Smothers, tell us the story of her life. Evolutionary biologist Dr. Molly Schumer explains how scientists’ understanding of hybrids has changed dramatically over the course of Peanut’s lifetime. And no mule episode would be complete without a cowboy-hatted mule packer leading us deep into the rocky trails of the American West on muleback to explain why mules are the best of both worlds of their parents. Learn about the storytellers, listen to music, and dig deeper into the stories you hear on Terrestrials with activities you can do at home or in the classroom on our website, Terrestrialspodcast.org.
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Support for Terrestrials is provided by Science Sandbox, a Simons Foundation Initiative, and the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations.
More from Terrestrials
The Shovels: Dig Deeper
For each episode of Terrestrials, we provide a selection of activity sheets, drawing prompts, musical lessons, and more. We call them “shovels” because we hope they will help you (and your friends, family, students, neighbors, etc) dig more deeply into the world! You can do them at home, in the classroom, outside, or in the privacy of your own mind. We hope you enjoy!
If you want to share what you’ve made, ask an adult share it on social media using #TerrestrialsPodcast and make sure to tag @Radiolab
Draw - Get creative with a special listen from our friends from DrawTogether
Do - We've put a bunch of concrete - and even kinda fun - things we can all do to help protect the nonhuman life on this planet IN BINGO form!
This week’s storytellers are Jerry and Teresa Smothers, Dr. Molly Schumer and mule packer James Reeves.
Want to keep learning? Check out these resources to learn about the sure-footed, stubborn hybrid helper that is the MULE:
Watch a TV news report about Peanut and MiracleLigers and Zonkeys and Narlugas, Oh my! Read an article about hybrids in nature and whether being a hybrid helps or hurts your genetic success.Learn the story of the first narluga (narwhal and beluga) spotting. Learn more about James Reeves, Mule Packer to the stars! Or, rather, to the mountains.Follow Mule Packer James Reeves’ instagram, full of videos of him and mules!Is breeding hybrids (like Ligers) unethical?Did you know mules are STILL used in the military? Check out Susan Orlean’s wonderful article about that.A video about the myth of Pegasus vs. The Chimera“Mules and More” MagazineDetailed list of reports of fertile mules over history
Terrestrials is a production of WNYC Studios, created by Lulu Miller. This episode is produced by Ana González, Alan Goffinski and Lulu Miller. Original Music by Alan Goffinski. Help from Suzie Lechtenberg, Sarah Sandbach, Natalia Ramirez, and Sarita Bhatt. Fact-check by Natalie Meade. Sound design by Phoebe Wang with additional engineering by Joe Plourde and Andrew Dunn. Our storytellers this week are Jerry and Teresa Smothers, Dr. Molly Schumer, and mulepacker James Reeves. Special thanks to the punks at the Music Resource Center in Charlottesville, Virginia: Riles, Susie, Jack, Tate, Tiny, Cheyenne, Zina, Bray, Jordan and Orion
Our advisors are Theanne Griffith, Aliyah Elijah, Dominique Shabazz, Liza Steinberg-Demby, and Tara Welty.
Terrestrials is supported in part by Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation.
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