Don’t Touch.

Bright colors are one of nature’s ways of saying “Don’t touch.” Usually, anyway—when you’ve boiled a lobster and it turns bright red that’s nature’s way of saying “Grab the butter, it’s time to eat!” Also there are serious ethical questions about whether you should throw lobsters in boiling water while they’re still alive and nature has completely left it up to us to sort out the answer there so, hey, thanks for nothing, nature.

I’ve always had a fascination with nature so I think I’ve always known not to touch really cool looking animals. As amazing as octopuses are, for instance, I don’t think I’d ever pick up a blue-ringed octopus even before I read that their bite can kill you because, well, blue is not a color you encounter a lot in nature so it just screams “poison!” Or “you’re looking at the sky!”

It was only recently, though, that I learned that the scientific term for this is aposematism. How I got this far in life knowing that brightly colored and flamboyant animals are often highly toxic but didn’t know that there’s a specific term for it is beyond me but I have the zoologist Lindsay Nikole to thank for teaching me that term.

This is a very roundabout explanation for why, when I was out walking and got a glimpse of some little plastic dinosaurs out of the corner of my eye I jumped out of my skin because for a moment I thought they were real.

And even after I realized they were toys I didn’t touch them. It seemed like they’d been left there for a reason and I didn’t want to interfere with that.

Here’s the video that taught me the term “aposematism”. If you have a fascination with strange and colorful animals you’ll love Lindsay Nikole’s videos.

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  1. K.L. Hale

    Ha! I love this! I really enjoy your writing—I giggled. I’m drawn to colorful things and animals—as a little girl I IMMEDIATELY wanted to touch insects, animals, etc…NO FEAR! Gulp! I’ve learned better. I hear those little dinosaurs have quite the bite. When I hiked regularly, I’d leave “treasures” among the trails. I had a tiny unicorn and monkey. They “looked” harmless so they may have been picked up. One in the backcountry of Idaho and the other on a trail in the Rockies. Thank you for sharing this YouTube! I’m going to follow her!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! And I wish I could follow the trails you’ve hiked just to see the treasures you left behind. Also it’s a funny thing that when I was young and we went to Florida my mother told me to be careful about what I touched or picked up. I think she was concerned I might pick up a Portuguese man’o’war on the beach. Never did that but I did come home with a black widow spider one time.

  2. mydangblog

    I’m allergic to lobster but even still, I wouldn’t eat one because of the way they’re kept alive in the grocery store and then people point to the one they want—can you imagine if you had to do that with cows or pigs? From what I understand, they have to be slowly boiled to death because they release some kind of toxin when they feel threatened so throwing them in boiling water ruins the taste. Either way, nasty!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      And lobsters are giant bugs! Keep your allergy in mind if someone ever offers you a cooked bug. Or an uncooked one. That may not happen but every thirteen years when we have a cicada invasion there are always recipes for them.
      Also we know some people with a farm. They have cows that they, well, they call it “sending them to freezer camp”. I couldn’t do that. I’m scared of cows but they’re also sweet animals.


    Hey, thanks for everything, Chris.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I appreciate that but I think Lindsay Nikole deserves some thanks too.


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