A group of fresh faced scientists have biweekly informal discussions about evolutionary biology and palaeontology... over beer.
Podcast 201 - It's Got Legs!
The gang discusses two papers about things with legs…. and the word snake is their name. Honestly, we’ve had flimsier excuses for a podcast, just go with it. The first paper looks at a specimen of a legged snake, and the second paper discusses potential evolutionary pathways for convergent evolution in a group of penguin like animals closely related to snake birds (Plotopterids). Meanwhile, Amanda’s computer is doing just fine, James is otter-ly amazing, and Curt knows when to end on top.
Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):
Our friends talk about two papers which look at animals with legs. The first is an animal that today doesn't have legs but a long time ago animals like it did have legs, very tiny and weird legs. This first paper talks about a dead body of one of these animals with tiny weird legs from a long time ago which has more parts than most. Most other dead bodies we find do not have much of a head, which is really important for deciding how much these old things from a long time ago are the same as the animals that don't have legs today. This dead body has a head, which is cool. It seems that animals without legs first had heads that look like they are today and then lost their legs.
The second paper looks at animals that usually fly but these animals move through water. Some animals move through the water with their arms, but others use their legs to push them through the water. The ones that use their legs seem to drop into the water from above, while others of these animal that can not fly use their arms to move in the water. However, some older animals use their legs to move in the water and did not fly, so this is hard to say for sure. There are also animals in the past who looked like the animals that do not fly, but they seem to move in the water with their legs, not their arms.
Garberoglio, Fernando F., et al. "New skulls and skeletons of the Cretaceous legged snake Najash, and the evolution of the modern snake body plan." Science advances 5.11 (2019): eaax5833.
Mayr, Gerald, et al. "Comparative osteology of the penguin‐like mid‐Cenozoic Plotopteridae and the earliest true fossil penguins, with comments on the origins of wing‐propelled diving." Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research (2020).
Podcast 200 - Going Full Circle of Teeth
The gang celebrates hitting the milestone of 200 podcast episodes by returning to a topic related to their first episode, sharks. The first paper looks at how shark size has changed through time, and the second paper looks at the different ways whirl-toothed sharks were able to eat their food. Meanwhile, James has ideas about the success of Disney movies, Amanda comes back at the wrong time, Curt quotes the good batman movies, and everyone has real troubles just starting the damn podcast (Podcast officially starts getting on topic at 18:15).
Up-Goer Five (James Edition):
This week the group recognize their two hundred shout sound by looking at some papers that cover an idea that is close to an idea they talked about when they did their first real shout sound (which is not the first actual shout sound). The first paper is looking at how big animals that live in the water and have big teeth get large. It gets lots of teeth and looks at animals that live in the water and have big teeth today as well as some animals that live in the water and have big teeth that lived in the past and are known from their whole bodies in order to work out how big they got from just their teeth. It then asks why they got big, and suggests a number of reasons such as that maybe the need to have big babies made them get big, which made them have bigger babies and made them get bigger still. The other paper looks at some weird animals that live in the water with big teeth that have teeth running down the middle of the mouth rather than around it. It looks at both the teeth and also the rest of the head in a couple of animals and shows that they eaten in different ways, and that some would have used their strange teeth to pull animals with many arms from their hard homes, while others would break the homes of the animals with many arms to eat them.
Tapanila, Leif, et al. "Saws, scissors, and sharks: Late Paleozoic experimentation with symphyseal dentition." The Anatomical Record 303.2 (2020): 363-376.
Shimada, Kenshu, Martin A. Becker, and Michael L. Griffiths. "Body, jaw, and dentition lengths of macrophagous lamniform sharks, and body size evolution in Lamniformes with special reference to ‘off-the-scale’gigantism of the megatooth shark, Otodus megalodon." Historical Biology (2020): 1-17.
Podcast 199 - It's Complicated; Ecological Convergence
The gang discusses two papers that look in detail at examples of convergence in the fossil record. The first paper uses multivariate statistics to create an “eco-space” in order to study how ecological roles of marine tetrapods changed over the Mesozoic. The second paper looks at the evolutionary history and functional morphology of sabre-teeth in mammals. Meanwhile, James tries a new flavor, Amanda is bathed in soft focus, and Curt details Superman’s side hustle.
Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):
Our friends talk about two papers that look at how animals change and are changed by the world around them. The first paper looks at the jobs that animals do and how those jobs have changed over time. They look at animals with a hard part in their back and four legs which go back into the water and use some number work to see what job each animal has, and how those jobs change over time. They find that there are many things that can happen in these four legged animals that go back to the water. One cool thing is that when one animal goes away for all time, a new animal can come in that does the old animal's job. But this new animal doesn't do exactly the same job as the old one.
The second paper looks at cats and other animals with long teeth. These cats have usually been put into two big groups because of how these long teeth look and thought that these big groups came about because these cats ate different things. This paper looks at all of these cats and not cat things with long teeth and finds that even inside these two big groups, cats are eating other things a probably doing a lot of different jobs. They find that these long teeth may not be used in the way that we thought they were used, and that cats may have been able to use these long teeth for many different jobs. This is important because getting long teeth is a thing that is older than just cats.
Lautenschlager, Stephan, et al. "Morphological convergence obscures functional diversity in sabre-toothed carnivores." Proceedings of the Royal Society B 287.1935 (2020): 20201818.
Reeves, Jane C., et al. "Evolution of ecospace occupancy by Mesozoic marine tetrapods." Palaeontology (2020).
Podcast 198 - Ugly Baby
The gang discusses two papers about interesting finds in the bones of fossil vertebrates. The first paper looks at the evolution of bony parts in early fishes, and the second paper shows a fascinating example of ontological change in a species of sauropod dinosaur. Meanwhile, Amanda’s best ideas are ignored, James has unconventional bread opinions, Curt offers some advice, and everyone spends their time just negging a baby.
Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):
Our friends look at two papers that look at things with a back. The first paper looks at the hard parts that make up these early things that lived in the water. Many people think that some of these early things do not have inside hard parts that are the same as the inside hard parts of other things that are around today which move in the water. However, this paper looks at one of these early things and finds that it does have these inside hard parts. And it turns out, that things that appear after it then lost these inside hard parts. What we thought before was wrong; these inside hard parts seem to have appeared and disappeared in these early things that move through the water.
The next paper is about a baby that is not good to look at. The baby is of a very big animal with four legs and a long neck. This is the first time we have seen a baby of this animal and it looks very strange. The eyes of the baby are more forward than the eyes of the grown up, meaning that the eyes must move as the baby gets older. This is not something that anyone thought would happen before we found this baby. There is a lot to talk about with this baby, but our friends just talk about how weird it is.
Kundrát, Martin, et al. "Specialized Craniofacial Anatomy of a Titanosaurian Embryo from Argentina." Current Biology (2020).
Brazeau, Martin D., et al. "Endochondral bone in an Early Devonian ‘placoderm’ from Mongolia." Nature: Ecology and Evolution (2020).
Podcast 197 - Pie Heresy
The gang discusses two papers that investigate niche partitioning and the ecological impacts on bird beak evolution. Honestly, this podcast is just a grab bag of different topics loosely connected together as an excuse for James to continue to espouse his beliefs on pies. The gang discusses one paper about a long necked reptile and another paper about beak morphological evolution in Aves. Meanwhile, Amanda is a Samurai Jack fan apparently, James likes his papers short, and Curt kills an old joke.
Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):
Our friends look at two papers that look at faces. The first paper looks at this strange thing that lived in water and had a very long neck and small head. When people found these strange things, there was always a big one and a small one. Most people thought the small one was just a baby of the big one. This paper shows that the small ones were not babies, and in fact they actually lived in a different way from the big one. This means there was more than one of these strange things living in the same place at the same time, and the fact that they lived in different ways may be way they could have been able to stay so close without causing the other ones to die out from there not being enough food.
The second paper looks at the faces of animals that fly. These faces change a lot because the face is what they use to eat. Some of these animals that fly seem to have faces that look like they are that way because of the things they eat, but others of these animals do not seem to do this. This paper studies lots of these things that fly and looks at how they are brother and sister to each other. What they find is that groups that eat a few types of things have fast changing faces, while other groups do not have fast moving faces. In short, why some faces change and others do not seems to be something that does not have an easy answer and that is cool.
Felice, Ryan N., et al. "Dietary niche and the evolution of cranial morphology in birds." Proceedings of the Royal Society B 286.1897 (2019): 20182677.
Spiekman, Stephan NF, et al. "Aquatic Habits and Niche Partitioning in the Extraordinarily Long-Necked Triassic Reptile Tanystropheus." Current Biology (2020).
Podcast 196 - High Quality Discount Corpses
The gang discusses two papers that look at the wealth of information left behind on fossil bones which can let us know about the many organisms which worked to break down and decay dead animals. These feeding traces give clues to the presence of animals that might not easily fossilize. Plus, this topic is an excuse for James to suggest two papers that involve dead dinosaurs. Meanwhile, Curt starts a business, Amanda goes prepper, and James wonders about the taphonomy of Shrek.
Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):
Our friends talk about things that eat the dead. These two papers look at marks on the hard parts of dead angry animals that are caused by other animals eating the dead bodies. The first paper looks at lots of different marks from many different small animals. These marks let us know that these animals were living there, even when we don't have good bodies of those animals. We can learn a lot about the different types of animals from these marks. The second paper looks at marks that they think were made by small warm animals with hair.
McHugh, Julia B., et al. "Decomposition of dinosaurian remains inferred by invertebrate traces on vertebrate bone reveal new insights into Late Jurassic ecology, decay, and climate in western Colorado." PeerJ 8 (2020): e9510.
Augustin, Felix J., et al. "The smallest eating the largest: the oldest mammalian feeding traces on dinosaur bone from the Late Jurassic of the Junggar Basin (northwestern China)." The Science of Nature 107.4 (2020): 1-5.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Would Give 10 Stars If Possible
Great podcast, and has been my favorite podcast for months now (basically since when I first discovered it). It manages to be both highly educational and highly entertaining. You feel like you’re sitting with a group of friends, laughing about the absurdities of life and science while talking about really smart stuff.
I work in healthcare, and during this difficult time, this podcast has been my go-to for a distraction and to get my mind on happier things. They never fail to have me literally laughing out loud, and I always learn something new.
Their commentary on the papers is insightful, fair, and informative. They give their honest opinion, and point out flaws without being too critical, as well as positives without being overly rosy.
If you’re worried you won’t be able to understand it if you’re not a paleontologist, don’t be! I have only ever dabbled in paleo as a hobby, and I am able to follow their conversations fairly easily. Although there are some things that go over my head or I need to google, they do a GREAT job explaining the concepts and relevant terms for the paper.
Overall, I cannot recommend this podcast highly enough. It reminds me of my own grad school days (albeit in a different subject) when we would just sit around and talk about the things that fascinate us. Amanda, Curtis, and James come across as real people, and the only regret you’ll have is that you’ll spend a lot of time wishing they were your friends.
Informative Good Fun
This podcast is humorous, charmingly rambly, and informative all at once. It’s always fun listening to their discussions and banter and I never fail to learn something interesting each episode and always look forward to the next one. This podcast is a hoot and if you don’t mind a bit of rambling then it’s well worth a listen, it’s such great fun.
It’s A Journal Club for those Who Need a Journal Club
I think I’ve reviewed before but maybe it went away over the years...
When you’re a graduate student trying to learn the literature, you often end up going to journal clubs, where you and a bunch of grad students sit around and try to do your best posturing-as-professors with dissecting the papers. You often go off topic, have cutting tangents referring to things no one has brought up in 3 years, and overall try to figure out if you can understand a paper well enough to see its flaws, and yet also see its promise.
PAD delivers this experience in perfect simulacra, and I love it. I don’t this podcast speaks broadly to paleontology or even *wants* to, instead I think it’s just a great place to hear people try to see what is interesting in a couple of papers that looked way more interesting from the titles. Heck I have even been offended by some criticisms, but I don’t care anymore, because I really its really just showing how genuine they are, which is pretty true - regardless of alcohol percentage of the beer of choice.
Also, love the Fiasco sessions! If conferences weren’t so exhausting I would suggest a game (maybe something shorter, like Lady Blackbird) could be arranged one evening during a meeting...