We're pret-ty excited to introduce cartoonist Maki Naro to Radiolab. Maki puts pen to paper (well, metaphorically, because he really puts stylus to digital tablet) and creates magical comics inspired by science. For our Fate and Fortune episode, we asked Maki for his take...and he found himself thinking about marshmallows, birds, and beasts (i.e., us). To see his cartoon in its full glory, click on the image to make it full screen.
I love birds.
I spend a lot of my free time drawing them. I love their beady, dinosaur eyes; the careful layering of their feathers; and their quirky, darting movements. Most of all, I love how they never cease to surprise me. I sort of have birds on the brain. So when I listened to the segment about Mischel’s marshmallows and delayed gratification, one species of heron immediately sprang to mind.
Green heron is a small bird commonly found in North American wetlands. At first glance, it bears closer resemblance to a football than its more common heron cousins. But in the blink of an eye it can lunge at prey with a neck that is just as long as its body, deftly catching fish and other small creatures.
What’s curious is the heron’s fishing technique. They have been observed using twigs, insects, and worms as bait for fish. If you had told me they only used twigs, I might have written off their fishing habits as merely recognizing that fish are attracted to small disturbances in the water. But using food to catch bigger food? That’s worth taking a closer look.
Green herons aren’t the only bird that has been observed using bait fishing techniques.
According to an article in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology, several varieties of herons have been observed using active bait fishing techniques to catch prey. It’s also worth mentioning that not all green herons practice bait fishing. It makes one wonder if it’s a skill learned individually, rather than a behavioral trait of the species? Either way, both planning for the future and making investments in the name of greater payoff down the road are tell-tale signs of complex reasoning abilities, and they have earned the green heron a special place in my heart. Football shape and all.
Want more cartoons by Maki Naro? (We know we do!) Check out: