Songs for Unusual Creatures

This collection of videos from Songs for Unusual Creatures features some of Earth's strangest animals -- including Giant Anteaters, Sea Pigs, Glass Frogs, Jesus Christ Lizards, Elephant Shrews, Magnapinna Squids and more. Michael Hearst creates music inspired by these animals. And for this collection, he's brought along some of his favorite musicians, along with some of their unusual instruments to help him. 

  • Glass Frog | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    Q: What do the GLASS FROG and the GLASS ARMONICA have in common? A: They're both in this video from Songs for Unusual Creatures in association with PBS Digital Studios! The glass frog is called so because it has see-through skin on its stomach! How crazy is that? You can see just about all of its inner organs, including its beating heart. The glass armonica, on the other hand, is one of the rarest and most exotic musical instruments and it was invented by Benjamin Franklin! Join Michael on a visit to the "Frog Pod" at the Atlanta Botanical Garden and then check out Michael Hearst's friend Cecilia Brauer play a tune for the glass frog on a glass armonica.


    Grades: K-8
  • Magnapinna Squid | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    "We were doing a dive with our remote vehicle off of Hawaii at about 4,000 meters ... and saw what looked like a rope hanging in front of the camera," says David Clague of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI). "It turned out to be one of the arms of this gigantic squid! None of us had seen anything like it." Join Michael Hearst from Songs for Unusual Creatures as he visits David at MBARI in Moss Landing, CA to discuss the Magnapinna Squid. Then undulate along to spectacular footage of this unusual creature while music is performed on trumpet, trombone, and tuba.

    Grades: K-8
  • Elephant Shrew | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    It's true; it's true; there's an elephant shrew! Surprisingly, it's not related to the shrew at all. In fact, it's more closely related to manatees, aardvarks, tenrecs, and -- you guessed it -- elephants! Join Michael Hearst from Songs for Unusual Creatures as he visits the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Then check out his band performing the song he came up with for these unusual creatures. 

    Grades: K-8
  • Jesus Christ Lizard | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    Behold the Jesus Christ Lizard! People have given the common basilisk this name because of its amazing ability to run on water. This unusual creature inspired Michael Hearst from Songs for Unusual Creatures to compose a song for the toy piano and his friend Margaret Leng Tan was kind enough to play it.

    Grades: K-8
  • The Incredible True Story of the Blobfish | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    The blobfish was recently declared "The World's Ugliest Animal!", but is that really fair? Even if the blobfish is less attractive that some of its fishy cohorts, does that make it any less lovable? Let's take a closer look at how this unusual creature became an overnight celebrity. While we're at it, how about a musical boxing match performed on two of the lowest-pitched instruments -- tubax and contrabassoon?

    Grades: K-8
  • Giant Anteater | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    Join Michael Hearst from Songs for Unusual Creatures as he travels to the Nashville Zoo to visit the largest giant gnteater breeding facility in the United States. He might even get to feed an anteater named Mochila while he's there. By the way, did you know that giant anteaters walk on their knuckles to keep their claws sharp? 

    Grades: K-8
  • A Song for the Sea Pig with The Kronos Quartet | Songs for Unusual Creatures | PBS Digital Studios

    Who loves the Kronos Quartet? Who loves a sea pig? Now's your chance to see them BOTH in one video. It's a dream come true! But, wait, what in the world is a sea pig? Linda Kuhnz at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute can tell you all about it.

    Grades: K-8
  • Hunting For Tardigrades! | Songs for Unusual Creatures

    Guess which animal can survive temperatures of 300 Fahrenheit, -400 degrees, and withstand 1000x more radiation than any other animal on the planet? The Honey Badger? Wrong! It's the tardigrade (aka water bear). In this episode, host Michael Hearst hunts for this microscopic creature in Virginia.

    Grades: K-5
  • The World's Largest Salamander | Songs for Unusual Creatures

    The Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian on the planet, reaching lengths of up to six feet. In this episode, join host Michael Hearts as he travels to the Los Angeles Zoo to meet a Chinese Giant Salamander, and then perform a song inspired by this unusual creature.

    Grades: K-5
  • The Easter Bilby? | Songs For Unusual Creatures

    In Australia the bilby has become a popular alternative to the Easter Bunny. In this episode, we learn all about this unusual Australian marsupial. We'll also make bilby masks and jump around, because, why not?

    Grades: K-5