Who Will Sweep The Charismatic Creature Carnival?

4:51 minutes

purple carnival-like swirls with cartoon images of an oppossum, a mantis shrimp, and a shoebill stork in the foreground
Meet our charismatic finalists. Credit: Kay Wasil

Our Charismatic Creature Carnival is coming to a close. Over the last month, SciFri has celebrated six overlooked or unfairly maligned species that deserve a chance under the spotlight. And now, out of our three semifinalist creature candidates, there can only be one winner. Will it be the colorful, tiny, but mighty mantis shrimp? Or perhaps the adaptable, dramatic opossum? Or will the endangered shoebill stork, with its prehistoric look, come out on top? The choice is up to our listeners. And the winner will be celebrated at our October 6th SciFri Virtual Trivia Night!

We Heard From You!

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Alexis from Arkansas: “I vote [for] the mantis shrimp. A few reasons for that. Number one: Googly eyes. It has googly eyes IRL, in real life. Number two: Fire snap. That’s what I can call the little thing it can do, pew pew. That’s objectively cool. Number three: It’s gorgeous! Just a gorgeous creature. Now, I know this is no beauty contest, it is a charisma contest—but if you’ve got it flaunt it. And the mantis shrimp flaunts it. And for those reasons, I vote mantis shrimp. Goooo mantis shrimps!”

colorful blue mantis shrimp painted on a rock that is about the length of a pencil
Made by Athena from Alaska.
colorful pink and green watercolor painting of a mantis shrimp
Made by Alex from Pennsylvania.

Vicki in Galveston: “I’m voting opossum, and ever since I lived in this house for two years, there has been a possum named Blossom living just under my bathtub. You can open a little door in my bathroom that was built in the 1940s and see her in there, and she now has a son named Rocky. They haven’t caused me any trouble at all, they’re delightful friends of mine.”

sketch of an opossum on notebook paper
Made by Anoushka from Illinois.

Allison from Rochester: “The shoebill stork, oh my God, looks at their cheeks! What a beautiful bird. How could you not love this strange, gorgeous bird?”

ink drawing of a shoebill stork and a person bowing to each other against light yellow background
Xemoc from Hong Kong.
pencil drawing of a shoebill stork on off-white paper
Made by Vasisht from California.

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Segment Guests

Kathleen Davis

Kathleen Davis is a producer at Science Friday, which means she spends the week brainstorming, researching, and writing, typically in that order. She’s a big fan of stories related to strange animal facts and dystopian technology.

Segment Transcript

IRA FLATOW: And now for the last time this fall, it’s our Charismatic Creature Carnival.






Joining me today, as always, is our Charismatic Creature correspondent, Kathleen Davis. Hi, Kathleen.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Hey, Ira. I’m so sad the carnival’s almost over.

IRA FLATOW: You know, so am I. But let’s review. Last week we had a showdown between the pigeon and the shoebill stork. And I hear we have a winner.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: We sure do. Our listeners voted on which creature they thought was the most charismatic. And one of our feathered friends came out on top. So Ira, for the last time this carnival, I would like a drum roll, please.


KATHLEEN DAVIS: Soaring into our third semifinalist spot it’s the one, the only shoebill stork.

IRA FLATOW: [IMITATES CYMBOL STRIKE] So now we have all our semifinalists, right?

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Yes. The shoebill stork joins the mantis shrimp and the opossum as carnival match-up winners. And that means one of them will come out on top as our first entry into the Charismatic Creature Carnival Hall of Fame. But that choice is up to our listeners.

IRA FLATOW: Ooh. And we know our listeners feel strongly about these creatures, don’t we?

KATHLEEN DAVIS: We heard from so many people, listeners of all ages from all over the world, from Douglas, Alaska to Tokyo, Japan. Our listeners were so passionate about the creatures we talked about. So we’ve collected the wonderful art and voice messages they’ve sent in at sciencefriday.com/carnival. But who will be our winner? Will it be the shoebill stork? Here is what listener Jeff from Bozeman, Montana had to say about why he liked the shoebill stork.

JEFF: Given the fact that dinosaurs are still alive and with us in the form of birds, there is no better example, in my opinion, than the shoebill stork. It looks exactly like what I imagine a living dinosaur would look. It’s kind of terrifying, in my opinion, but really cool.

IRA FLATOW: Whoa. First of all, he should have his own radio show, I think, with that voice. But that was a great vote, I think.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Yeah. But it could also be the opossum that comes out on top. Here is a message that we got from Judy from Sag Harbor, New York.

JUDY: I’m voting for the opossum because it’s America’s only marsupial, number one. I live in Long Island. And opossums eat ticks, so that’s very cool. And it’s got a face that only a mother could love. So we’ve got to love them.

IRA FLATOW: She makes a good argument, I guess. It’s got a phase only a mother could love.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: It sure does. Or will the colorful, tiny, but mighty mantis shrimp come out on top? Here is a message we got from Diego from Florida about why he loves the mantis shrimp.

DIEGO: I like the mantis shrimp because of all its different colors. Yeah, I just think it’s really good.

IRA FLATOW: Yeah. Well, I’m with you, Diego, on that one. They are all great creatures. I really don’t know who’s going to come out on top. And how do people vote for their favorites of these three?

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Per usual, the site you’re going to go to is sciencefriday.com/carnival.

IRA FLATOW: sciencefriday.com/carnival. Voting closes next Wednesday, 10:00 AM Eastern time. And Kathleen, I hear the winner will be announced at a special event next week.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Yes. So, as our listeners may know, on Wednesdays we hold Science Friday Trivia. It’s completely virtual. It is streamed on YouTube so anybody can come. And next Wednesday at 8:30 PM Eastern time we are doing a special Charismatic Creature trivia night.

IRA FLATOW: Ooh! So does that mean if you’ve been listening throughout the carnival you might have an advantage?

KATHLEEN DAVIS: I’m not not saying that.

IRA FLATOW: [LAUGHS] Do I have any use for the mantis shrimp costume I’ve been painstakingly making for Halloween?

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Well, it’s funny that you mention that. Our trivia event will also be a virtual costume party.


KATHLEEN DAVIS: I will be dressed up. So will our trivia leader, Diana. And we’ll want you to send photos of your costumes. So choose your favorite charismatic creature we talked about during the carnival. And I can’t wait to see what our creative listeners do.

IRA FLATOW: Same here. Sign up for trivia at sciencefriday.com/trivia. Our carnival winner will be announced next Wednesday 8:30 PM Eastern time. Want to thank our carnival ringleader, SciFri producer Kathleen Davis. This really was a lot of fun. It was a great contest.

KATHLEEN DAVIS: Thanks, Ira. I had a blast. And I will see everybody at trivia next week.

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Ira Flatow is the host and executive producer of Science FridayHis green thumb has revived many an office plant at death’s door.

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