QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames.


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 269 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2021. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series S commissioned.
Series I, Episode 7 is repeated on Dave today at 8:40pm.
Recording at Zoom (Virtual). Tickets

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Cariad Lloyd, Sandi Toksvig, Daliso Chaponda, Phill Jupitus. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series Q, Episode 8 - Q Animals

Further details


- The thing that is blue and sounds like a whale is a quail. The blue quail lives in sub-Saharan Africa and is one of about 40 species of quail. However, only the males are blue with the females being brown. (Forfeit: Blue whale)

- XL Tangent: Linda Smith once joked that: "I bought one of those tapes of whale music and I thought it was really soothing. Turned out to be a dolphin tribute band."

- Tangent: In space, quails lose their sex drive. They are arguably the first extraterrestrial life form, in that quail eggs were sent into space on the Mir space station in 1990, and they became the first vertebrates to be born in space. The Soviets wanted to see if quail eggs would be a good source of food for long-term missions. Eight of the eggs hatched, but the birds couldn't cope with zero gravity. The quails could not latch onto things and could not feed themselves. Also, the females stopped ovulating, the males had reduced testosterone levels, and both sexes exhibited an absolute apathy to mating.

- Tangent: In 2011, the University of Kentucky was given a grant by the National Institute of Health to study the effects of cocaine on the sex drive of Japanese quails. The cocaine was linked to risky sexual behaviour. The male Japanese quail has a gland above their sex organ that secretes a liquid containing some of the same enzymes and proteins you get in egg white. They whip this into a stiff foam using their sphincter and they deposit this into the female after depositing their sperm.

- XL Tangent: In Old English, quails used to be called "but-for-but", "wet-my-lips" and "quick-me-dick". The word "quail" comes from Medieval Latin name for them, "quacula", the sound they supposedly make.

- XL Tangent: Female quail are attracted to losers. McMaster University in Ontario did some research where two male quail in a box with a Plexiglas divider down the middle, and the two quail fought by trying to peck each other through the glass. A female watched the fight, and when she was placed in the box with the two males, she preferred the loser, presumably because it was the least aggressive and the female does not want an aggressive mate.

- The most numerous undomesticated bird in the world is the red-billed quelea, also known as the weaver bird. In Malawi, there are a major pest and there 1.5 billion of them, in comparison to the UK's most numerous undomesticated bird, the wren, of which there are 8.6 million breeding pairs. The queleas come in flocks of two million, and each bird eats roughly half of its own body weight per day. One flock can consume 20 tonnes a day. Farmers try to get rid of them by beating drums, using dynamite, napalm, pathogens, electronic devices and fire-bombing. (Forfeit: Pigeon; Chicken)

- XL Tangent: About 50 million quelea are killed in South Africa every year alone, but they have very few natural predators and the females produce about nine offspring per year, so they keep replenishing themselves.

- XL Tangent: In 2018, the province of Vorarlberg, Austria, banned the practice of blowing up dead cows. Vorarlberg is on the Swiss border, and cows might fall to their death down a precipice or be struck by lightning, but it is so hard to get rid of the remains because they were having to helicopter out the dead cows at a cost of $1,000 a trip. Thus, some farmers blew up the cows instead at a cost of $32. It was made illegal due to the dangers of contaminating ground water and the fact that the practice was putting tourists off.

- The thing that has started waking up earlier in order to get more selfies is the quokka. In photos they always appear to be smiling and are dubbed the world's happiest animal. Most live on the small island of Rottnest, just off Perth, Australia. In 2018, over 7,400 quokka selfies were posted on social media, including selfies by Roger Federer and Margot Robbie. Quokkas are nocturnal, but the ones on Rottnest are now staying awake during the day in order to spend more time with tourists, and the ones that are on the part of the island that's highly developed for tourism are doing better than the quokkas in less disturbed habitats. (Forfeit: Kim Kardashian)

- Tangent: Quokkas are not good parents. When the female is attacked, the first thing she does is eject the joey from her pouch and the infant lies on the ground making a hissing noise. This distraction allows the mother to escape.

- Tangent: A comedian once gave Daliso some advice, saying that if a fan comes to him and recognises him, he should offer to do a selfie because some people are too shy. Once he tried to do this in Nottingham, asked a woman if she wanted a selfie, and the woman said: "No, you're not the Eiffel Tower."

- If a quoll (a squirrel-sized marsupial) came to your barbeque you should offer it toad sausages. Quolls are in danger of extinction, partly due to foxes and cats being introduced to Australia by Victorians, but also from poisonous cane toads. These toads contain a toxin, which can cause hallucinations when you lick the toad, leading to some dogs in Australia being completely addicted to them, but while quolls like to eat the toads the toxin is deadly to them. Thus, to teach the quolls not to eat cane toads, they are being fed sausages made from toad mince. The harmful skin is taken off the toad, they mince the frog, and then add a chemical that makes quolls feel nauseous, so puts them off the toads. 68% of wild quoll have now been put off from eating toads. There are plans to drop toad sausages by helicopter.

- Tangent: Cane toads were introduced in 1935 to help sugar plantations, which were plagued by another pest, the cane beetle. 102 toads were introduced, but the plan failed because the beetles flew and the toads didn't. Australia now has 1.5 billion cane toads, and they have devastated the country's flora and fauna. A female toad can have 35,000 eggs.

- Tangent: Another method being used to save the quoll is domesticating them and making them pets. Quolls can be trained to use litter trays. Quolls also has the second-biggest bite force quotient of any animal, i.e. the force of their bite relative to their size. The animal with the biggest bite force quotient is the Tasmanian devil. The mating season of quolls only lasts three days, during which they mate with their partner every 15 minutes for the entire duration. The female gives birth to about 30 offspring, each one the size of a grain of rice, but as the female only has six nipples, only the first six to reach the mother are given milk.

- The panel are shown a picture of what looks like a zebra which only has stripes in the top half of its body, and are asked what is wrong with it. The answer is that it is not a zebra, but an extinct subspecies called a quagga. Quaggas were made a protected species by the Cape Town government in 1886, three years after they became extinct, with the last one dying in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883. Grant Museum at University College London is home to an almost complete quagga skeleton, although they originally thought they had two zebra skeletons until an examination of them in 1972 (the other one was a donkey). There are believed to be only seven quagga skeletons in the world, and the one in the Grant Museum is the only one with a skull. The museum's quagga is missing its back left leg, and in the studio the museum's curator Tannis Davidson explains some of the possible theories as to where it is. One idea is that it had been loaned to the Royal College of Surgeons just before World War II, and this college was bombed during the war. Another theory was that the bones were lost when the specimen was evacuated to Wales. Sandi thus launches a "Quime Watch" appeal to help find the bones, with an award of a holiday to the Mountains of Kong.

- Tangent: When Daliso was in school in Kenya, he read early colonial books, and one old theory stated that if a white human and a black human had offspring, the children would be stripped like zebras.

- The most offensive thing you can do with a queen conch shell is to use it as a boxing glove. About 3,000 years ago, the Mayans used them as boxing gloves. This was part of the ritual worship of the rain god Chaahk, and part of the ceremony involved bloodletting.

- XL Tangent: The queen conch is a large species of sea snail that lives in the Atlantic. The shell is ten times stronger than mother of pearl. The only other animal that that can attack the queen conch is the nurse shark, which doesn't break the shell but sucks the snail out of it. Cariad comments on being sucked off by a shark, to which Phill says that this was the best ever production of "West Side Story" he had ever seen.

- Tangent: Phill is given a conch shell to play with as a musical instrument. The Aztecs used to have a conch shell trumpet called a, "quiquiztli", and the people who played them were called, "quiquizoani". It was thought that these instruments had the power to defeat the Aztec lord of the dead.

- XL Tangent: There is an annual conch-blowing competition in Key West, Florida. In 2018, 70-year-old Mary Lou Smith won the women's division, and her fellow player Rick Race dropped to one knee and proposed to her. People in Key West and the Bahamas call themselves "conches".

- XL: If Quentin the Quahog squirts to the right, it means winter is over. Quahogs are a species of clam made famous by the American animated series Family Guy which is set in the fictional town of Quahog, Rhode Island. 2nd February is Groundhog Day for most of North America, but in Nantucket they have Quahog Day. On that day, a quahog is opened and the direction that the water spurts from his shell predicts whether winter is over. If Quentin squirts to the left there are six more weeks of winter, but if he squirts to the right then winter is over. However, Quentin does not live to see it because he is immediately eaten by the harbour master.

- XL Tangent: The groundhog used to predict the weather on Groundhog Day is named Punxsutawney Phil. In Britain, a movie television channel aired nothing except the film "Groundhog Day" on Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day (the actual day rather than the film) has been going since 1887, while Quahog Day has only been going for 10 years. Quahogs themselves can live to old age. In 2006, researchers from Bangor University opened up the shell of an ocean quahog which they dredged off the coast of Iceland. It was 507 years old, but by dredging and opening it up they had just killed the oldest animal known to science. Paul Butler from the university said: "We had no idea it was that old before it was too late."

- XL: The panel are shown a picture of a fish with large lips and are asked who would want to kiss them. It is a quillback sucker, a freshwater fish found all over North America, and these lips allow them to use their mouths like a vacuum, allowing them to attach to surfaces. However, these fish also have a tiny oesophagus, meaning they can only eat microscopic things like algae. The oldest recorded quillback is 95 years old, but quillbacks do not have quills. The name comes from the dorsal fin which is shaped like a quill pen. They also have a polygynandrous mating system, meaning that two or more males will mate exclusively with two or more females. There is also a quillback rockfish which has sharp, venomous spines on its dorsal fin to protect itself.

- The most famous quilled animal in the world, the porcupine, makes loves spike free. The North American New World porcupine has sex for about a minute. The female signals her interest by urinating and screaming, then the female turns her back on the male and arches her tail over her back, providing a safe space for the male to mate. Baby porcupines are called: "porcupettes". (Forfeit: Carefully)

- XL Tangent: The panel are shown some woodland and are asked what a porcupine would make of it. They would like it because American porcupines are extremely good at climbing trees, and one of the ways that females show their interest in males is to climb a tree. Many porcupines spend their entire lives up a tree and as a consequence they make their own antibiotics in their quills because they keep falling out of the trees and impaling themselves on the quills. The quills are quite flexible, but they are razor-sharp, penetrate the skin easily, and are extremely painful to extract because they have backward-pointing barbs. Scientists are now studying them to try and mimic this mechanism in order to make better medical adhesives like nicotine patches.

General Ignorance

- According to the traditional proverb, care killed the cat. For over 260 years the proverb was: "Care killed the cat", with the word "care" meaning worry or sorrow. This how the word appears in the works of Shakespeare, with the following line in Much Ado about Nothing: "What courage, man! What though care killed a cat. Thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care." The proverb changed in the mid-19th century and no-one knows why. In Russia, their version of the phrase is: "Curious Barbara's nose was torn off at the market." (Forfeit: Curiosity)

- XL Tangent: The phrase: "Cat got your tongue" could date as far back as 500 BC in the Middle East. It is claimed that liars had their tongues removed and fed to cats. Alan says that if you die alone, with the exception of cats, after three days cats will start feeding on your face if the cats can't get out of the house. Sandi believes this to be true, because when Thomas Hardy died the nation wanted him to be buried in Poets' Corner, but his wife wanted him to buried in Dorset, so it was arranged that the heart would be removed after his death and that would be buried in Dorset while the rest of the body would go to Poets' Corner. The surgeon removed the heart at Hardy's house, but as the heart was not going to be buried until the next day, they put in a biscuit tin in the larder, and supposedly in the morning the cat had managed to open the tin and eat the heart. The cat eventually died and the cat got buried.

- XL: You can tell if a bird is a songbird from its toes. Not all songbirds sing. A songbird is defined as any bird that belong to the suborder passerine, which have three toes facing forward and one facing back. The song box in birds is the syrinx, and some are so developed that they can sing two notes at once really fast. One songbird, the northern cardinal, can sing more notes than is on a piano keyboard in a tenth of a second. 29% of female songbirds don't sing at all. According to the RSPB, birdsong is any sound used to attract a mate or to protect territory. (Forfeit: It sings)

- The panel are shown a picture of an armadillo and are asked how it would protect itself. It does so by digging a hole and hides in it with only the armour showing. Of the 18 species of armadillo only two curl themselves into a ball, the Brazilian three-banded and the southern three-banded. The one the panel were shown was the six-banded armadillo, which digs a hole. Meanwhile, nine-banded armadillos can walk underwater, hold their breath for six minutes, and can by buoyant on the water by swallowing air and inflating their stomach and intestines. (Forfeit: Rolling into a ball)

- Armadillos are not the only animal in the world apart from humans to catch leprosy. Mice and rats can also contract the disease, while a 2016 study found that one third of red squirrels in Britain carry it. (Forfeit: Leprosy)

- XL: If you have asthma, it makes no difference if you buy a dog that is supposedly hypoallergenic. Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, and there is no evidence to support such a thing. The allergic reaction to dogs is caused by their saliva and the dander or flakes of dead skin, which is found in all dog breeds. Some people believe that if dogs shed less fur they release less of this, but this has not been proved. While some dogs might be better than others, none is totally hypoallergenic.


- Daliso Chaponda: -5 points
- Phill Jupitus and Cariad Lloyd: -6 points
- The Audience: -10 points
- Alan Davies: Score not given.

Broadcast details

Friday 25th October 2019
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Phill Jupitus Guest
Cariad Lloyd Guest
Daliso Chaponda Guest
Tannis Davidson Self
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Mike Turner Question Writer
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer

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