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).
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!

Where are the Ringtails?


Michael Ellis declares that ringtails register a 9.9 on the cuteness scale, and they were reputed to shack up with miners during the Gold Rush. Yet longtime field biologist Wendy has yet to see one of these small mammals. They are elusive, but not as uncommon as you might think.

What are glowworms?


We don’t have fireflies in the Bay Area, but we do have glowworms. What are they and why the heck do they light up?