Playlist TED Talks

7 talks on animals that have bad reputations

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In today’s talk, Munir Virani extols the virtues of vultures. Despite our harsh judgments of these funny-looking birds, Virani explains that they are natural garbage collectors and that they kill harmful bacteria that might otherwise threaten us, as well as our livestock. As of now, 11 of the world’s 16 vulture species are facing extinction. In this talk, Virani warns that as a result, we could face an upsurge in diseases.

To hear more about why we should adore vultures, listen to Virani’s talk given during the Nairobi stop of the TED Talent Search. His talk made us think — what other animals are unexpectedly lovable? Below, find more creatures that we may meet with disgust, but that actually hold many gifts for the advancement of science and society. Get ready to consider bats and spiders creepy-crawlies no more.

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Cheryl Hayashi: The magnificence of spider silk
That spider you squished last week? Its evolution was almost 380 million years in the making. As the spiders have evolved, so have the many silks they spin. At TED2010, Cheryl Hayashi breaks down the DNA of spiders to show what we can learn from the variations in the ancient material produced by these eight-legged weavers.

Andrea Marshall: An up-close look at the majestic manta ray
Andrea Marshall has been fascinated with the ocean since childhood. That led her to study manta rays, which are often mistaken for stingrays because of their shape. In this talk from TED@Johannesburg, Marshall reveals the riveting details she discovered from tracking these animals, while laying out what we can learn from this iconic marine species.

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Joshua Klein: The intelligence of crows
Joshua Klein’s research of crows was inspired by one person’s utter disgust with them. In this talk from TED2008, Klein will change your ideas about crows – they are significantly more intelligent than you thought and have an incredible ability to adapt. Watch them navigate traffic, improvise tools and even learn to use a vending machine.

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Marcel Dicke: Why not eat insects?
At TEDGlobal 2010, Marcel Dicke delivered a message that may be hard to swallow: he wants us to eat insects. Dicke tells us that insects save the US economy 57 billion dollars per year. What more can they give us? They have the potential to be a delicious, eco-friendly alternative to meats.

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Emma Teeling: The secret of the bat genome
Emma Teeling has a secret: those bats that we are so afraid of may actually provide the secret of everlasting youth. At TEDxDublin, Teeling explains the unique set of senses bats possess, and the ways these features could help us.

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Robert Full on animal movement
Warning: this talk contains slo-motion video of a cockroach. At TED2005, Robert Full marvels at the design of animal feet, showing how a roach’s spiny legs are perfectly suited for climbing surfaces. In the meantime, he also gives a look at the complex legs of worms, crickets and tarantulas.