Michael Ellis

Send your questions to atn@baynature.org.Santa Rosa-based naturalist Michael Ellis leads nature trips throughout the world with Footloose Forays (footlooseforays.com).

Ask the Naturalist: Where Are the Chorus Frog Babies?


Q: I collect rainwater to use on my garden and I’ve found Pacific chorus frogs in the black garbage can that collects the rainwater, but I’ve never seen eggs or tadpoles in there. I wonder why not; would they be too small to see? [Marian, San Jose]

Barnacles above water. Photo by KQED Quest

How do barnacles make baby barnacles?


Barnacles are hermaphroditic – they contain both male and female sex organs. You’re thinking, “Well, they always have a date on Saturday night.” No, it’s a really bad idea to self-fertilize: Inbreeding results in little genetic diversity. Worms, slugs, snails – slow-moving animals with low rates of encounter – are all hermaphroditic. And you could not get any slower than an adult barnacle!

What’s the Secret of Nectar?


Q: When I see bees and hummingbirds feasting on even tiny flowers, I wonder if each flower replenishes the nectar supply, or is it a one-time offering?

Top Shark: This One Goes to Seven!


The biggest shark in the Bay is the seven-gill–with two more gill slits than the average shark. Why the extras? Well, turns out they’re probably an evolutionary accident, but these are still fascinating animals–up to 10 feet long, and swimming right out there in the Bay!

Why are barn owls dying on the road?


Bay Nature reader Rich saw a number of dead barn owls along I-5. What’s going on? Turns out barn owls may be the most widespread birds in the world — and they may be the original ghosts!