Palaeocast (general)

Between the weird and wonderful rangeomorphs of the Ediacaran Period and the world-famous palaeocommunities of the Burgess Shale, the 'Early Cambrian' is host to a 'waste basket' of fossils untied by their small size and shelly construction.

These small shelly fossils (SSFs) aren't just a single group of animals, but represent several different invertebrate phyla. Further compounding the difficulty of their identification, each SSF, termed a 'sclerite', is part of a larger composite skeleton known as a 'sclerotome'. Whilst some complete sclerotomes have been preserved, many SSFs still represent multiple jigsaws thrown together and the pictures lost.

Piecing the SSFs back together and building a picture of the Earliest Cambrian is Dr Marissa Betts of the University of New England, Australia. Her work on the SSFs have provided a new framework for the regional stratigraphy of Australia and in this interview, we discuss why this was necessary, how she went about it and finally, what we know about the animals themselves.

Direct download: Ep102a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:07am UTC

Fossilisation of organic material was long thought to result in the complete loss of original content. However in the last 20 years, several high-profile publications reported the discovery of proteins, blood vessels, blood cells and even DNA. But for as long as these arguments have existed, so too has a counterargument as to the validity of the discoveries.

In this episode, we're joined by Dr Evan Saitta of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, lead author of a recent paper seeking to discover and evaluate the preservation of putative original organic materials within dinosaur bones.

Direct download: Ep101.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:58pm UTC

One of palaeontology‘s great themes of questioning is the rise of novelty: how new structures and functions arise in specific lineages. In this episode we speak with Neil Shubin, Professor of Organismal Biology at the University of Chicago, who has been studying novelty in the context of the vertebrate transition from water to land.

Neil studies the fossil record of early tetrapods, the first vertebrates with limbs, to understand what changes underpinned this great transition. The other half his lab uses molecular techniques on living organisms to see how changes to the development of appendages (and their underlying genetic architecture) effected the shift from a fin to a limb.

In this interview, we hear about his fieldwork in the Arctic and Antarctic, how palaeontologists decide where to look for key fossils, why development matters, and about his deep involvement in science communication.

Direct download: Ep100.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:20pm UTC

Undoubtedly, Megalodon is the world’s most famous extinct shark is and in this episode, we hear everything we know about this taxon, its ecology and how it got to be so big. Its ultimate extinction is also considered, not in isolation, but placed in the wider context of the entire marine ecosystem.

Joining us is Dr Catalina Pimiento of  Swansea University.

Direct download: Ep99.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:37pm UTC

From 1:1 scale whales to microfossils scaled up to the size of a house, there are few model-building projects that 10 Tons are afraid to take on. At the helm of this business is Esben Horn and in this episode, he joins us to discuss the process of model building, from concept to museum display.

We also talk about some of the exhibitions 10 Tons have led themselves, including the successful ‘Rock Fossils on Tour‘ which showcases some of the different fossils named in honour of rock/metal musicians.

Direct download: Ep98.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Opsins are the photosensitive proteins in the eye, responsible for converting a photons of light into an electro-chemical signals. Different opsins react to different wavelengths of light, each corresponding to a different band of colour. In humans, the 'visible spectrum' of light (a very anthropocentric term) is covered by three opsins, receptive to red, green and blue wavelengths. Other animals have opsins that are capable of subdividing the 'visible spectrum' and responding to a large number of very specific wavelengths of interest. All in all, the ability to detect light and recognise colour is not the same throughout the animal kingdom.

In this episode, we are joined by Dr James Fleming of Keio University, Japan to discuss the evolution of opsins in the ecdysozoa (the group containing arthropods and a fair few worms). We talk about the fundamentals of light detection and how, using phylogenetics, we are able to tell which colours certain extinct animals were capable of detecting.

Direct download: Ep97.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:48pm UTC

Decapods are a group of crustaceans that include such well-known families as crabs, lobsters and shrimp. Whilst crustaceans are known from as early as the Cambrian, we don't see the first decapods until Devonian. Over the course of their evolutionary history, decapods have remained relatively conservative in their morphology with the exception of some interesting forms in the Mesozoic.

In this episode, Dr Carrie Schweitzer, Kent State University, gives us a run-down of the taxonomy and evolutionary history of the decapods and we explore the Middle Triassic Luoping Biota.

Direct download: Ep96.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:35pm UTC

The interaction between plants and atmosphere forms the basis of the carbon cycle and is amongst the most important processes for maintaining life on the planet today. Photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and in return forms the base of the food chain and produces the oxygen we, as animals, need to breathe. Equally, the composition of the atmosphere influences the climate and thus the availability of resources, governing where plants are able to survive.

The relationship between the two can be committed to the fossil record by such physical proxies as the number of stomata in leaves and by the palaeolattitude of different species. Other chemical proxies, such as isotopic ratios, can also help elucidate what the atmosphere was like at the time a plant was preserved. Similarly, atmospheric proxies can also be used to make inferences about past plant life in the absence of fossil remains.

Joining us to discuss the link between plants and atmosphere is Prof. Jennifer McElwain of Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

Direct download: Ep95.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:19pm UTC

The Carboniferous was a time of huge swampy forests, big trees, and lots of life both on land and in the ocean. One world-renowned fossil site from approximately 300 million years ago is the Joggins Fossil Cliffs, located on the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia Canada. Joggins is one of Canada’s five palaeontology-based UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is one of the best places in this world to find fossils from this time period.

Why are the Joggins Fossil Cliffs so important? What makes this locality unique?

In this episode, Liz speaks with Dr. Melissa Grey, the curator at the Joggins Fossil Centre to learn more about why this region is so important. We discuss the variety of fossils, from plants to invertebrates to vertebrates, and how the interesting preservation has resulted in virtually an entire ecosystem being preserved.

Direct download: Ep94.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:02am UTC

Palaeontology has an ability to grab the public’s attention like no other subject. Perhaps it’s the size and ferocity of something like a T. rex, or maybe it’s the alien nature of something like Hallucigenia. Irrespective of whatever it is that makes the subject interesting to any given individual, it’s important because palaeontology is a great gateway into STEM subjects and is, in itself, one of the few ways in which we can understand about the evolution of life and the planet.

But how has the public’s perception of palaeontology changed with the times? Was it more popular in its infancy, when huge questions were still left unanswered, or is it more popular now, in the era of Jurassic Park, where animatronics and CGI can bring fossils ‘back to life’?

Joining us to discuss how palaeontological outreach has been conducted and received throughout its history is Dr Chris Manias, King’s College London. Chris is a historian of palaeontology and founder of the ‘Popularizing Palaeontology‘, a network of scholars, scientists, museum professionals, artists, etc. who reflect on trends in palaeontological communication and build future collaborations.

Direct download: Ep93.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:33am UTC

Welcome to this special series of podcasts relating to a fieldtrip that I have been invited on by Dr Martin Brazeau of Imperial College London.

I’m being flown out as the Palaeozoic arthropod “expert” of the team and I’ll be there to deal with all the eurypterids and phyllocaridids we come across, along as documenting the whole process for outreach and hopefully your enjoyment.

In all, this trip will last around 6 weeks, during which time I’ll have no internet, electricity, running water or even any toilets. It’s going to be a gruelling trip, but hopefully one that will give you an insight into what life is like in the field. You will join us as we discuss the science, prepare for the trip, arrive in the field, go out digging and finally wrap things up. You will experience all the highs of discovering new and exciting fossils and the lows of when we’ve just all had enough. This expedition is a unique opportunity to share with you a single research project from start to finish, rather than just the results.

In this first episode, we contextualise why we’re going into the field. What is the current lay of the research landscape? What we already know? and what are we aiming to find out about the early evolution of the jawed vertebrates, a group to which we ourselves belong?

Direct download: Expedition_context.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Welcome to this special series of podcasts relating to a fieldtrip that I have been invited on by Dr Martin Brazeau of Imperial College London.

I’m being flown out as the Palaeozoic arthropod “expert” of the team and I’ll be there to deal with all the eurypterids and phyllocaridids we come across, along as documenting the whole process for outreach and hopefully your enjoyment.

In all, this trip will last around 6 weeks, during which time I’ll have no internet, electricity, running water or even any toilets. It’s going to be a gruelling trip, but hopefully one that will give you an insight into what life is like in the field. You will join us as we discuss the science, prepare for the trip, arrive in the field, go out digging and finally wrap things up. You will experience all the highs of discovering new and exciting fossils and the lows of when we’ve just all had enough. This expedition is a unique opportunity to share with you a single research project from start to finish, rather than just the results.

We now move on to discussing the logistics of the trip. How do you go about making this kind of expedition happen? What are some of the challenges we will face? What will life be like in the camp? and how will we get our priceless fossils home?

Direct download: Expedition_planning.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Squamates are a group of reptiles that include lizards and snakes, with the earliest fossils occurring in the Jurassic, despite molecular studies dating the group back to the Triassic. The study of their origins has been contentious because of this gap, and the lack of fossils during this time period.

However, a new look at a previously-known fossil has changed our view of squamate origins, and discussing this animal and what it means about reptile relationships and squamates is Dr. Tiago Simões of the University of Alberta. This episode is based on a new paper published in Nature by Dr. Simões and colleagues.

Direct download: Ep92.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00pm UTC

The Appalachian mountains, span the Eastern margin of the United States of America. They are predominantly composed of Paleozoic rocks, but Mesozoic marine sediments (formed adjacent to the Appalachian continent at the time) can be found along the Eastern coast. It is within these deposits that the remains of a unique dinosaur fauna can be found.

Joining us to paint a picture of the vertebrate faunas of Appalachia during the Mesozoic is Chase Brownstein, research associate at the Stamford Museum and Nature Centre.

Direct download: Ep91.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:29pm UTC

Bird evolution has long fascinated palaeontologists. Despite crown-group birds (birds giving rise to modern lineages today) evolving during the Cretaceous, there are relatively few fossils from this time, making it difficult to understand this key time period and just exactly how modern birds came to be.

Dr Daniel Field, 50th Anniversary Prize Fellow from the University of Bath, studies bird evolution, particularly how crown-group birds evolved. In this episode, we discuss his recent paper on an exceptionally preserved Ichthyornis specimen, and it’s significance in understanding how modern birds came to be.

Direct download: Ep90.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:52am UTC

Tooth shape and arrangement is strongly linked with diet, and palaeontologists often use teeth to determine what kind of food an animal may have been eating. Carnivorous teeth are generally more simple, while herbivorous teeth are more complicated. We know that herbivory evolved later, but how did the dentition of herbivores evolve? What kind of variation exists in herbivorous dentition?

In this episode, we speak with Dr Aaron LeBlanc, a Killam Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta. His research focuses on the evolution and development of teeth in amniotes, including some of his PhD work on the development of the dental system in herbivores, which we discuss in detail here, as well as the evolution of the mammalian system, which earned him the Alfred S. Romer Student Prize at last year’s SVP in Calgary.

Direct download: Ep89.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:36pm UTC

The buculum is a bone present in the head of the penis of most mammals. Whilst a few mammals, like us, don't possess a baculum, some have greatly reduced versions and many have very elaborate shapes. Despite this variety in expression of the baculum, its function remains elusive, though many theories exist.

Investigating the function of this bone is Dr Charlotte Brassey, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, and she joins us for this episode to give us a crash course on penile anatomy and to reveal to us how little we know about genitals.

Direct download: Ep88.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:13am UTC

Archaeopteryx is perhaps one of the most iconic taxa in the fossil record. Exclusively found in the Late Jurassic Solnhofen Lagerstätte in Bavaria, Germany, it is a crucial taxon for understanding the relationship between dinosaurs and birds. Furthermore, it is critically positioned to inform us how flight evolved in this group.

Now, a new study published in Nature Communications, has been inferring how Archaeopteryx was able to fly by examining details of its bones. In this interview, we are joined by lead author Dennis Voeten, Palacký University, who shares with us his hypotheses, methods and results.

Direct download: Ep87.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:47pm UTC

The Carboniferous (Latin for ‘coal-bearing’) is a period of the Paleozoic named after the massive accumulations of coal that were formed globally during this time. These coal deposits were the fuel for the Industrial Revolution and continue to be an important economic resource to this day.

For this interview, we asked Standford University’s Prof. Kevin Boyce to introduce us to coal production and to tell us how it’s formed and what it’s made of. We then concentrate on determining why the Carboniferous was the period with the largest coal deposits when we know that forests existed in other periods too. Finally, we look at the impact that coal production and subsequent exploitation have had on the planet.

Direct download: Ep86.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:50pm UTC

Ichthyosaurs are large marine reptiles that existed for most of the Mesozoic Era. The most familiar forms superficially represent dolphins, but some earlier ichthyosaurs were more eel like. They could attain huge proportions, with some genera reaching up to 21m long. They were active predators feeding on belemnite, fishes and even other marine reptiles!

In this episode, we talk to Dr Ben Moon and Fiann Smithwick, researchers at the University of Bristol, UK. Both have recently been involved in producing a documentary with the BBC entitled ‘Attenborough and the Sea Dragon’, so we have used this as an opportunity to discuss in great detail what ichthyosaurs are and get insights into the kind of work required to produce such a documentary.

Direct download: Ep85.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm UTC

In this episode, we interview Dr Leigh Anne Riedman, University of California, about life during the Neoproterozoic Era, the most recent of the Precambrian Eon. This time interval is far from straight forward; not only were there changes in oceanic and atmospheric chemistry,  but also dramatic shifts in climate and the formation and subsequent rifting of the supercontinent Rodinia. The Neoproterozoic also saw major biological innovations and ended with the appearance of the enigmatic Ediacaran Fauna.

Leigh Anne studies acritarchs, relatively simple, single-celled walled microorganisms and by examining their diversity and abundance, she is able to comment on how life fared during this turbulent time.

Direct download: Ep84.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:41pm UTC

Professor John Long is an early vertebrate researcher at Flinders University, Australia. He is most famous for his work on the three-dimentionally-preserved fish from the Gogo Formation, North West Australia.

In this interview, Dr Tom Fletcher (who you'll remember from Episode 76) got the chance to speak to Prof. Long during a field trip to the world-famous Burgess Shale.

Direct download: Ep83.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:16pm UTC

Direct download: Ep82.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:11am UTC

Coccolithophores are tiny unicellular eukaryotic phytoplankton (algae). Each is covered with even smaller calcium carbonate plates called coccoliths and it is these that are commonly preserved in the fossil record. In fact, coccoliths are so small, and can be so common, that they have been able to be employed in areas other than academia.

Joining us is Dr Liam Gallagher, Director Network Stratigraphic Limited and a nannoplankton specialist. In this episode, he explains what coccolithophores are and we explore some case studies of how their coccoliths are being utilised.

This episode discusses details of recent and high-profile murder case. Whilst focus is placed on the scientific investigation, the latter part of this episode may not be suitable for all audiences.

Direct download: Ep81.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:44pm UTC

We've covered how palaeoart is made on Palaeocast before, but never what daily life is like for a professional palaeoartist. What does it take to get started, when can you say no to a commission and which factors come in to play when deciding how much to quote?

Joining us for this episode is Bob Nicholls of Paleocreations

Direct download: Ep80.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:02pm UTC

The transition of fins to limbs is one of the most significant in the history of vertebrate evolution. These were the first steps that would eventually allow tetrapods to go on to dominate so many terrestrial ecosystems. Fossils that help fill the gaps in this crucial time are invaluable, so how do we go about finding them and what happens when we do discover one?

Joining us to give an overview of some of the fossils involved in this transition, and to provide insights into the fieldwork that goes into finding them, is Dr Ted Daeschler, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

 

Direct download: Ep79.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

When thinking of palaeontology in Asia, most people think of Mongolia and China, but there is actually a significant palaeontology community in Japan. Japan has many fossils, starting in the Ordovician, and ranging from everything from bivalves and trilobites to dinosaurs and mammals. In this episode, we speak with Dr. Makoto Manabe, the Director of the Centre for Collections and Centre for Molecular Biodiversity Research at the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo. Makoto introduces us to Japanese palaeontology by walking Liz through the Japan Gallery at the museum, starting from the earliest fossils found up to more recent cave deposits.

Direct download: Ep78.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:21pm UTC

The proboscideans are a group of animals that contains the elephant and mastodont families. Many of us will be well-aware of these groups, but what of some of the lesser-known proboscideans? One such family are the gomphotheres and in this episode we’re introduced to them by Dr Dimila Mothé, of the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Direct download: Ep77.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:47pm UTC

The shape of an animal is a reflection of the way it interacts with the physical world around it. By studying the mechanical laws which influence the evolution of modern animals, we can better understand the lives of their ancestors. Hydrodynamics examines the movement of water in contact with an organism, and can include everything from body shape to blood flow. In this episode we spoke to Dr Tom Fletcher, University of Leicester, about hydrodynamics in palaeontology, and his research looking at fossil fishes and modern sharks. Tom and others have published a paper on the hydrodynamics of fossil fishes, and he continues to work on the biomechanics of fossil animals.

 

Direct download: Ep76.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Palaeontology is a constantly evolving field; when new methods and techniques are invented, they allow us to revisit old fossils and test our previous observations and hypotheses. Recently, an exciting new method called ‘Laser-Simulated Fluorescence’ (LSF) has been gaining popularity in palaeontology and we speak to its inventor Tom Kaye during a visit to the University of Bristol, alongside Dr Michael Pittman, Research Assistant Professor, The University of Hong Kong.

In this episode, we hear all about how LSF is allowing fossils to be seen under a completely new light. We discuss how the fluorescence is produced, how it’s currently being used and what possible applications it might have in future.

Direct download: Ep75.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17pm UTC

We have a pretty good idea about how different dinosaur groups evolved, and how they are related (although anyone who has been following the recent dinosaur relationship shake-up knows this is not quite as clear as previously thought), but we don't have a good idea of how their ancestors, early dinosauromorphs and other early archosaurs, evolved. When did these groups first appear? What lead to their diversification?

In this episode, we speak with (recently promoted!) Professor Richard Butler from the University of Birmingham and Academic Keeper of the Lapworth Museum of Geology about the evolution of this group, and early archosaurs in general. We also discuss a new, important species from the Middle Triassic of Tanzania described today in Nature by Nesbitt, Butler, and colleagues called Teleocrater rhadinus.

Direct download: Ep74.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm UTC

Ask anyone to list all the senses and they'll probably stop at five. Touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing are all important to humans, but in the animal kingdom, there exist others. In this interview, Prof. Kenneth Catania, of Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, joins us to talk about some of the other ways in which some vertebrates sense their environment.

Direct download: Ep73.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:19pm UTC

Episode 72b: Las Hoyas

Las Hoyas is a Early Cretaceous lagerstätte (site of special preservation) located close to the city of Cuenca, Spain. In this episode, we welcome Ángela Delgado Buscalioni and Francisco José Poyato-Ariza, both from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, to discuss the details of this remarkable site. Angela and Francisco have recently edited a comprehensive overview of the Las Hoyas site.

Like most lagerstätten, Las Hoyas is most famous for its vertebrate fossils, but what other taxa can we find there? What was the palaeoenvironment like? And which processes have governed the preservation of the fossils?

Direct download: Ep72b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:20pm UTC

Episode 72a: Las Hoyas

Las Hoyas is a Early Cretaceous lagerstätte (site of special preservation) located close to the city of Cuenca, Spain. In this episode, we welcome Ángela Delgado Buscalioni and Francisco José Poyato-Ariza, both from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, to discuss the details of this remarkable site. Angela and Francisco have recently edited a comprehensive overview of the Las Hoyas site.

Like most lagerstätten, Las Hoyas is most famous for its vertebrate fossils, but what other taxa can we find there? What was the palaeoenvironment like? And which processes have governed the preservation of the fossils?

Direct download: Ep72a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:31pm UTC

SVP2016 B

This year, the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. We sent Liz and Caitlin there to report on events at the conference.

Direct download: SVP2016B.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:38pm UTC

SVP2016 A

This year, the 76th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. We sent Liz and Caitlin there to report on events at the conference.

Direct download: SVP2016A.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:04pm UTC

Graptolites are small colonial organisms, each made up of many tiny, genetically identical zooids joined together by tubes. They've been around since the Cambrian and at times in Earth's history have been very morphologically and taxonomically diverse. Now there is just one living genus, but they are very common in the fossil record, often appearing as a 'sawtooth' pattern flattened on surfaces of deep sea sedimentary rocks.

In this episode Laura talks to Dr David Bapst, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Davis and adjunct assistant professor at the South Dakota School of Mines, about extinct graptolites - the Graptoloidea - and how these animals have changed in the 520 million years since they originated. We find out about major events in their evolutionary history including the transition from sea-floor dwelling benthic species to plankton that floated in the water column, and the reduction through geological time of the number of branches from many branching dendritic forms to the single 'stick' monograptids.

Direct download: Ep_71.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Episode 70: The Golden Age of Dinosaur Discovery

The last 10 years has shown a large increase in the number of new species and new discoveries of dinosaurs, as well as the number of papers written. It seems that almost every week there is a new species or significant find in the news. Why is that? Is this likely to continue? What can we expect for the next 10 years?

We sat down with Dr. David Evans, Temerity Chair in Palaeontology at the Royal Ontario Museum and Associate Professor at the University of Toronto to talk about this so-called ‘Golden Age of Dinosaur Discovery’. Dr. Evans is a well known dinosaur palaeontologist who has worked on many groups all over the world, focusing particularly in southern Alberta and the US.

Direct download: Ep70.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:39am UTC

Episode 69: Fungal Symbioses

Plants, Animals and fungi; these are all three of the Kingdoms of life we’re all most familiar with, but what you might not know is that fungi are more closely related to animals than they are to plants. Stranger still is that the vast majority of terrestrial plants live in a symbiotically with fungi.

In this episode, we interview Prof. Marc-André Selosse, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris. We discuss this symbiotic relationship and how it helped both groups overcome the massive challenge of adapting to life on land. We further go on to look at exquisitely-preserved fossils which display cellular details and reveal the first evidence of this relationship and discuss the potential identity of a particularly enigmatic giant fossil. We end the conversation theorising about what benefits a true understanding of this symbiosis could have on the future of agriculture.

This relationship between plants and fungi is something that has shaped the evolution of life on land and so this discussion is most definitely not one to be missed!

Direct download: Ep69.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:55pm UTC

Episode 68: Fossil plants and the Paleocene Eocene thermal maximum

The Bighorn Basin in Wyoming has been an important area for research into terrestrial ecosystems for decades. The basin formed as part of the uprising of the Rocky Mountains in the west of North America, and sediment from the surrounding mountain ranges was transported into it for millions of years, building up a huge thickness that has fossils from all kinds of life on land preserved within it. Rocks from many different time periods are now exposed in the basin, but a particularly important one is the Paleocene Eocene thermal maximum (PETM) which occurred around 56 million years ago. At this time a huge amount of carbon was released into the atmosphere very quickly, causing a sharp (by geological standards) increase in temperature and dramatic effects on life. Palaeontologists and geologists are particularly interested in studying the PETM as it can potentially give us lots of information about how life and earth systems might respond in the near future to the large quantities of carbon being released into our atmosphere now by humans.

In this episode recorded in the field we talk to Dr Scott Wing, who is curator of fossil plants at the Smithsonian in Washington DC but has been coming to the basin every summer for decades. We chat about the geology and history of the area, what it's like to work in the Wyoming desert every summer, how to find and collect fossil plants, and what years of research by many people in the basin has told us about the PETM.

Direct download: Ep68.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:30am UTC

Episode 67: Blue Beach Tetrapods

Blue Beach is a locality in Nova Scotia, Canada that is well known for it's fossils from the Lower Carboniferous. In particular, it is significant for being one of few sites in the world that has fossils from this time period, known as 'Romer's Gap', significant for it's apparent lack of tetrapod fossils, despite the presence of animals like Ichthyostega and Acanthostega before this time. Significant work in recent years has been done on Romer's Gap, including on the tetrapod fossils found at Blue Beach.

In this episode, we spoke to University of Calgary Associate Professor Jason Anderson about these tetrapod fossils from Blue Beach, an area he has been working on for many years. Jason and others published a paper in 2015 on some of the early tetrapod finds from Blue Beach.

Direct download: Ep67.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:21am UTC

Episode 66b: Saving Mongolia’s Dinosaurs

Mongolia is a vast country with fossils from almost every period in the history of life. Important specimens representing the origin of birds, the origin of mammals, many unique dinosaur species, and the first dinosaur eggs to be identified, have all been found within it’s borders. For this reason it has long been the focus of field expeditions by Mongolian and international academics, but the remote nature of many of the sites has lead to fossil trafficking – where Mongolian specimens are illegally shipped out of the country, often labelled as something else entirely. In this episode we speak to Bolortsetseg Minjin, a Mongolian palaeontologist who is helping bring many important stolen specimens back home, including the tyrannosaur Tarbosaurus bataar. We chat to her, and her colleague Thea Boodhoo, about the history of palaeonotlogy in Mongolia, and about several projects they are running to spread knowledge to Mongolian people about the importance of the rich natural history heritage of their country. We also find out about their moveable museum and plans for a big fossil outreach tour this summer in the Gobi desert, for which they are currently trying to raise funds.

Direct download: Ep66b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:29pm UTC

Episode 66a: Saving Mongolia’s Dinosaurs

Mongolia is a vast country with fossils from almost every period in the history of life. Important specimens representing the origin of birds, the origin of mammals, many unique dinosaur species, and the first dinosaur eggs to be identified, have all been found within it’s borders. For this reason it has long been the focus of field expeditions by Mongolian and international academics, but the remote nature of many of the sites has lead to fossil trafficking – where Mongolian specimens are illegally shipped out of the country, often labelled as something else entirely. In this episode we speak to Bolortsetseg Minjin, a Mongolian palaeontologist who is helping bring many important stolen specimens back home, including the tyrannosaur Tarbosaurus bataar. We chat to her, and her colleague Thea Boodhoo, about the history of palaeonotlogy in Mongolia, and about several projects they are running to spread knowledge to Mongolian people about the importance of the rich natural history heritage of their country. We also find out about their moveable museum and plans for a big fossil outreach tour this summer in the Gobi desert, for which they are currently trying to raise funds.

Direct download: Ep66a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:24pm UTC

Episode 65: Saurian

“Saurian is a video game focused on providing the most captivating prehistoric experience ever developed for commercial gaming: living like a true dinosaur in a dynamic open world through intense, survival based gameplay. Players will have the opportunity to take control of several different species of dinosaur in their natural environment. You will attempt to survive from hatchling to adult, managing physical needs, while avoiding predators and environmental hazards in a dynamic landscape reflecting cutting-edge knowledge of the Hell Creek ecosystem 66 million years ago.”

Can video games be educational? If they portray ancient life accurately, could they even be considered palaeoart? We put such questions and more to Saurian project lead, Nick Turinetti.

Please visit the Saurian website for more details about the game and contribute to the Saurian project via their Kickstarter campaign.

Direct download: Ep65.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15pm UTC

Episode 64: When life nearly died

Around 250 million years ago, the largest biotic crisis the world has ever known occurred. The Permo-Triassic Mass Extinction (PTME) was an event that saw the loss of up to 95% of all species. The extinction forever changed the face of life on this planet, but what caused it? How long did the PTME last? Who were the big winners and losers? And how long did it take for life to recover?

Prof. Mike Benton, University of Bristol, joins us to discuss these questions in more.

Direct download: Ep64.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:58pm UTC

Episode 63: Return of the Tully Monster

Science is a process and so the door to the revision and refinement of hypotheses must always be left open. From the research discussed in our last episode, the newspapers would have you believe that the mystery of the Tully Monster had been solved once and for all. Yet only a couple of weeks later, another new study has weighed in on the identity of this enigmatic fossil.

This episode is released to coincide with the publication of a new paper in Nature and lead author Thomas Clements, University of Leicester, joins us to discuss his new insights from looking into the eyes of the Tully Monster

Direct download: Ep63.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:04pm UTC

Episode 62: The Tully Monster
Tullimonstrum gregarium, better known as the ‘Tully Monster’ is a problematic fossil from the Late Carboniferous Mazon Creek lagerstätte, Illinois, USA. The identity of this fossil has been the subject of much debate, due to its peculiar form. Several competing hypotheses have placed it within the arthropods, fish, worms or even molluscs.
 
Joining us in this interview is Dr Victoria McCoy whose work at Yale University (recently published in Nature) was able to demonstrate that the Tully Monster belonged to a different group entirely.
Direct download: Ep62.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:25pm UTC

Episode 61: WitmerLab

Dr. Larry Witmer’s lab at Ohio University studies the anatomy of modern animals to make interpretations regarding the functional morphology of extinct vertebrates. WitmerLab incorporates anatomical studies with cutting-edge technology, allowing for the reconstructions of soft-tissue structures no longer present in fossils (including respiratory apparatuses, brains, and inner ears). These reconstructions allow Dr. Witmer and his students to study the original physiology, biomechanics, and evolutionary adaptations of creatures long extinct.

Direct download: Ep61.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:03pm UTC

Diet is perhaps the most important aspect of ecology. As such, understanding the diet of extinct animals is crucial if we wish to reconstruct the ecosystems of the past. However, determining what was on the menu for extinct animals, known only from fragmentary fossils, is far from straight forward. We spoke to Dr David Button, from the University of Birmingham, to learn about the techniques palaeontologists use to deduce diet from fossils.

Direct download: Ep60.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:02pm UTC

Episode 59: Chemnitz petrified forest

Beneath the city of Chemnitz, Germany, exists a entire fossilised forest. This whole ecosystem was preserved in life-position during a series of volcanic events. The forest is from the Permian period and thus represents a fantastic snapshot of life during a period where terrestrial fossils are notoriously rare.

Joining us to discuss the flora and fauna of the Permian of Germany is Dr Ronny Rößler, director of the Museum für Naturkunde Chemnitz.

Direct download: Ep59.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:18pm UTC

Episode 58: Animal biomechanics

One of the most difficult aspects of palaeontology is understanding how extinct animals moved around. It’s one thing to find a fossil and reconstruct it’s morphology, but it’s completely another to put that morphology into action and understand the locomotion or behaviour. One reason for this is because of the lack of soft tissue and muscles. The field of biomechanics can help with this by looking at the actual physics of these structures to help understand things like the forces exerted on the bones or tendons of an animal.

Professor John Hutchinson of the Royal Veterinary College of the University of London is an expert in biomechanics of both living and extinct vertebrates. He has worked on many aspects of the tetrapod tree including early tetrapods up to birds. This episode focuses on how we can use biomechanics to understand locomotion in extinct animals, including dinosaurs, early tetrapods, and how modern animals relate to this question.

Direct download: Ep58.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Episode 57: Wealden Fossils
The Wealden Supergroup of southern England is known for it's Cretaceous fossils, particularly of dinosaurs, but also crocodilians, pterosaurs, lizards, invertebrates, and plants. The group represents the Early Cretaceous, and is well known for showing us the environment of this time period, which is not well-represented in many other places in the world. It has been essential in helping to understand this time. Large body fossils are known, but also small microvertebrate sites, and even footprints and foot casts.
 
Dr Darren Naish, a research associate at the University of Southampton and known for his blog Tetrapod Zoology has worked significantly with fossils from the Wealden Group, including dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and marine reptiles. In this episode, we talk about the importance of the Wealden Group, focusing on the large diversity of dinosaurs found here.
Direct download: Ep57.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:05am UTC

Virtual Natural History Museum

Laura interviews Dave about Palaeocast's new project: The Virtual Natural History Museum.

The Virtual Natural History Museum (V-NHM) is a project designed to make digital palaeontological resources accessible like never before. This website will integrate fossil multimedia from museums worldwide and bring them together in the one place, creating a kind of ‘master museum’. All of this data will be exhibited inside of a ‘computer game-style’ museum, allowing you to virtually explore the rich biological history of our planet, as told by the world’s best fossils.

Direct download: V-NHM.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:42pm UTC

Preparators are specialist staff working in museums and universities worldwide. They perform a very wide variety of tasks from fieldwork excavations, to specimen conservation. Any fossil has to be prepared for use, whether its to expose specific parts so that they can be studied, or to preserve and reconstruct a specimen so that it can be displayed in a museum gallery. Vertebrate preparation is an increasingly professionalised field that plays a huge part in the process of modern palaeontology.

Direct download: Ep_56.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

This year the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America was held in Baltimore, Maryland. This is one of the largest conferences that palaeontologists attend, with over 6000 attendees from all fields of Earth Sciences. Caitlin and Laura went along and talked to many of the palaeontology researchers who had come to present their work on posters and in talks.

Direct download: GSA2015.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:33pm UTC

Episode 55: Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to achieve powered flight, and lived in the skies above the dinosaurs during the Mesozoic. They're often mistakenly identified as dinosaurs, but are in fact a separate, closely related group. This group has recently undergone a revival, with more research on pterosaurs happening now than ever before. Where are they found? How diverse was this group? How did they evolve?

Research associate and palaeoartist Dr. Mark Witton from the University of Portsmouth is well-known in the pterosaur community, and answers some of these questions and more in this episode. He's also provided us with a number of spectacular images below, so make sure you check them out! If you want to learn more about pterosaurs, check out Episode 42 with Colin Palmer on Pterosaur Aerodynamics.

Direct download: Ep55.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:32pm UTC

The last part of our coverage from the 75th annual meeting of the society of vertebrate paleonology. In this part Caitlin speaks to Professor Christopher Smith about the history of the society, how it was recorded and archived, and how this information is being collected and maintained into the future.

Direct download: SVP2015P3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:13pm UTC

In the second part of our SVP coverage we have interviews with some of the researchers on the scientific content of their posters and conference presentations.

Direct download: SVP2015P2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33am UTC

The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual meeting is the largest conference each year for the world's vertebrate palaeontologists to present their work, network with each other, and find out what everyone else is up to. The first part of our coverage from the 2015 meeting in Dallas Texas includes interviews with palaeontology educators and museum specialists.

Direct download: SVP2015P1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:20am UTC

The ‘Crystal Palace Dinosaurs’ are a series of sculptures of extinct animals including dinosaurs, other extinct reptiles and mammals, which can be found in the grounds of the Crystal Palace in London. Commissioned in 1852, these are the earliest examples of dinosaur sculptures in the world. In fact, the first dinosaurs had only recently been discovered some 30 years earlier. Why were these models built? And what do they tell us about early scientific hypotheses of dinosaurs and other extinct animals? To answer these questions we talk Joe Cain, Professor of History and Philosophy of Biology at University College London.

Direct download: Ep54.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:36pm UTC

Ankylosaurs are a group of non-avian dinosaurs best known for their armour, tank-like bodies, and sometimes large tail clubs. First appearing in the Jurassic, they were common in Late Cretaceous ecosystems, with several species known from around the world. But how different were these species really? And just where did they evolve from? What was that tail for?

Dr. Victoria Arbour of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is one of the leading experts on ankylosaurs, and has published a number of papers, including a recent study on how the tail club evolved. We spoke with Victoria about these dinosaurs and she answered some of these questions for us.

Direct download: Ep53.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:09am UTC

Melanin is a pigment that is found across the animal kingdom. Melanosomes, the organelles that contain melanin, have been found preserved in fossil feathers and melanosome shape has been used to infer the original colors of birds and dinosaurs. Today we’re talking to Caitlin Colleary whose paper - on her Masters research at the University of Bristol - delves into detail regarding the structural and chemical preservation of melanin and describes the color of a fossil mammal for the first time.

Direct download: Ep52.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:26pm UTC

63rd Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy

The Symposium of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Comparative Anatomy (SVPCA) annual conference was held at the University of Southampton National Oceanography Centre at the beginning of September. This is the first year we've covered this event, and covered a wide range of topics in vertebrate palaeontology. We spoke to several people, which you can listen to here, including information on Romanian and Hungarian fossils, ceratopsian dinosaurs, ankylosaur histology, sesamoid bones, and more.

Direct download: SVPCA.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:31pm UTC

Eurypterids, or ‘sea-scorpions’ are an extinct group of chelicerates: the group containing the terrestrial arachnids (such as spiders and scorpions) and the aquatic ‘merostomes’ (represented today solely by the horseshoe crabs). They bear a gross-morphological resemblance to scorpions (hence the informal name) but, in being aquatic, may have shared more in common with horseshoe crabs. They inhabited the waters of the Paleozoic Era and were typically scavengers or predators. Most eurypterids were quite small and unremarkable, but some genera, such as Pterygotus and Jaekelopterus grew to incredible sizes; the latter reached an estimated 2.5m (8’ 2”) and is still the world’s largest-known arthropod.

Described today in BMC- Evolutionary Biology is the oldest-yet-described eurypterid Pentecopterus decorahensis and we've got lead author Dr James Lamsdell, Yale University, to introduce us to the eurypterids and to discuss the significance of this new genus.

Direct download: Ep51.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:00am UTC

On today's episode we're revisiting Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Canada. At this lagerstätte it is possible to find large bedding planes full of Precambrian organisms called rangeomorphs. These are an enigmatic group, which still can't be placed on the 'tree of life'.

We are joined by Dr Emily Mitchell of the University of Cambridge, who's recent paper in Nature was able to show that you don't need to be able to fully understand the anatomy of an organism to discern some of its most intricate details.

Direct download: Ep50.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:22am UTC

Synapsids are one of the major groups of terrestrial vertebrates. They first appear in the Carboniferous period and since that time have gone through many radiation and extinction events. But what did these first stem-mammals look like, how did they live and how do they differ from modern mammals? These may sound like simple questions, but there is an underrepresentation of terrestial deposits from the Permian. How then can we understand larger-scale evolutionary patterns when so much data is missing?

Direct download: Ep49.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:03pm UTC

The Burgess Shale is probably the world's most famous lagerstätte (site of special preservation). Discovered in 1909 on Mt. Stephen, in the Canadian Rockies of British Colombia, Canada, this locality provided an early representation of the true biodiversity of the Cambrian Period. For decades, discoveries from this site have helped palaeontologists better understand the 'Cambrian Explosion' and the origins of modern lineages. Since that time, many more early lagerstätten have been discovered, so we asked Prof. Simon Conway Morris, from the University of Cambridge, if this well-studied locality still holds its relevance to modern palaeontology.

Direct download: Ep48.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:23pm UTC

It's been quite a week for lobopodians!

First off, we've had the redescription of Hallucigenia by Dr Martin Smith. This enigmatic fossil from the Burgess Shale typifies the difficulty palaeontologists have had in interpreting some of the earliest animals in the fossil record. It has famously been reconstructed upside-down and is now shown to also have been back-to-front too! Dr Smith joins us to tell us about the observations, including some new anatomical characters, that put an end to the uncertainty of the orientation of this animal.

Secondly, there's a older and more heavily-armoured lobopodian from the early Cambrian Xiaoshiba biota of China that we've got the exclusive on. Collinsium ciliosum is described today and we're also joined by one of the lead authors Dr Javier Ortega-­Hernández.

Direct download: Ep47.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:00pm UTC

The world is currently undergoing a massive biodiversity crisis, and many people have said that we are in the next major mass extinction event, with species going extinct each day. Unfortunately, we don't currently understand what aspects control biodiversity, and how the past can help us understand the present and the future.

Associate Professor Lindsey Leighton of the University of Alberta discusses his work combining research of modern invertebrate marine fauna related to biodiversity and ecosystems with studies of the fossil record in order to further understand this problem.

Direct download: Ep46.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

The Cretaceous-Paleogene (K-Pg) mass extinction was the latest of the 'big five' events. Approximately 75% of species went extinct, with the most notable victims being non-avian dinosaurs. But what happened afterwards? By which methods were some of the survivors able to spread to fill vacant niches?

The University of Bath's Dr Nick Longrich joins us to hypothesise about the dispersal mechanism of a very unusual group of ground-dwelling predatory reptiles called amphisbaenians (worm lizards).

Direct download: Ep45.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:44pm UTC

We've covered ichnology before, <a href="http://www.palaeocast.com/episode-14-trace-fossils-2/">in Episode 14</a>, but it's time to revisit trackways with a high-tech approach. We talk to ichnologist and computer expert Dr Peter Falkingham, from Liverpool John Moores University, who's been looking at footprints using state-of-the-art techniques.

Direct download: Ep44.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

After the success of last year’s palaeoart competition we’re stepping up a gear and launching an even bigger and better contest. This time we've got three times as many prizes to give away courtesy of Cider Mill PressPalaeoplushies and Paleocreations.

We're running the competition on Facebook and Twitter between the 1st May and 1st June using #palaeocastart.

Direct download: Palaeocastart15.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:30pm UTC

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a molecule that encodes the genetic information within every species of life on earth. The information contained within the sequence of base pairs determines how any given organism develops and biologically functions.

DNA is not just limited to the biological world, but is also now being utilised in palaeontology. But why is DNA not normally preserved? What's the oldest DNA we can recover? And what can we learn about fossil animals from their DNA? We spoke to ancient DNA expert Dr Ross Barnett in order to get answers.

Direct download: Ep43.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:30am UTC

Palaeontology is more than just going out into the field, digging up bones, and putting them back together. A good understanding of biology, geology, and even engineering can help to figure out how extinct animals lived and especially how they moved around.

To further comprehend how we can use knowledge of engineering in palaeontology, especially with respect to understanding extinct animal flight, we spoke to Colin Palmer from the University of Bristol, and the University of Southampton. His background in engineering provides a unique set of skills and angle to studying pterosaur flight.

Direct download: Ep42.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Insects are the most abundant and diverse group on animals on the planet today. Would they therefore also be expected to have the richest fossil record? When did they first evolve and how rapid was their diversification? Do we give enough attention to the evolution of insects?

To get answers we spoke to Dr. David Penney, honorary lecturer at the University of Manchester and founder of Siri Scientific Press. Dr. Penney has just recently published an overview of palaeoentomology entitled 'Fossil Insects'. 

Direct download: Ep41b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:21pm UTC

Insects are the most abundant and diverse group on animals on the planet today. Would they therefore also be expected to have the richest fossil record? When did they first evolve and how rapid was their diversification? Do we give enough attention to the evolution of insects?

To get answers we spoke to Dr. David Penney, honorary lecturer at the University of Manchester and founder of Siri Scientific Press. Dr. Penney has just recently published an overview of palaeoentomology entitled 'Fossil Insects'. 

Direct download: Ep41a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:18pm UTC

Brachiopods are some of the most common fossils to be found in rocks worldwide. Their thick, hard and (often) calcareous shells make them preferentially preserved in the fossil record. We probably all have found one, but how many of us overlooked them at the time? What can a brachiopod tell us? How big a role have they played throughout geological time?

In this second part of a two-part episode we continue our interview with Prof. Lars Holmer, University Uppsala, Sweden, all about the humble brachiopod.

Direct download: Ep40b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Brachiopods are some of the most common fossils to be found in rocks worldwide. Their thick, hard and (often) calcareous shells make them preferentially preserved in the fossil record. We probably all have found one, but how many of us overlooked them at the time? What can a brachiopod tell us? How big a role have they played throughout geological time?

In this two-part episode we speak to Prof. Lars Holmer, University Uppsala, Sweden, all about the humble brachiopod.

Direct download: Ep40a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Alberta, Canada is one of the world’s richest areas for dinosaur fossils, and especially fossils from the Late Cretaceous. Iconic dinosaurs like T. rexTriceratops, and Parasaurolophus, as well as numerous other dinosaurs and fossils can all be found in this region.
We had a chance to chat with Professor Phil Currie of the University of Alberta at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting where we talked about Alberta and why it is such a fantastic place for dinosaur fossils.

Direct download: Ep39.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Ceratopsians are some of the most iconic dinosaurs that we recognise today including animals like Triceratops and Styracosaurus, with their big horns and frills. But is that what all 'horned dinosaurs' looked like? In fact, early ceratopsians were small and horn-less, sharing other characteristics with their larger, more derived relatives.

At the The Society of Vertebrate Paleontology 2014 we met up with Dr. Andy Farke from the Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology in California and discussed ceratopsian diversity and a new species he was involved with naming and describing.

Direct download: Ep38.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:00pm UTC

Theropods are what we would classically recognise as the meat-eating dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era. They are best known from genera such as Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor but the group is much more diverse and includies herbivores, beaked and ostrich-like forms. It is however the link between theropods and birds that has long-caught the public's attention and perhaps represents one of the most scrutinised evolutionary transitions. As more dinosaurs are discovered with feathers, should we still be asking  where the cut-off point is between the two groups and not if there should be a distinction?

We caught up with Dr. Steve Brusatte, University of Edinburgh,  at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting, who spoke to us about the relationship between theropods and birds.

Direct download: Ep37.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:43pm UTC

Welcome to our coverage of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual conference held this year at the Estrel Hotel, Berlin, between the 5th and 9th November.

 

 

 

We're delighted to be back at this event, which is doubtless the biggest dedicated vertebrate palaeontology conference in the world. As per our usual conference coverage, we’re aiming to produce daily multimedia reports to give you an indication of what it's like to attend such an event and also to bring you the latest news in the field.

Direct download: 2014_SVP_4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:29pm UTC

Welcome to our coverage of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual conference held this year at the Estrel Hotel, Berlin, between the 5th and 9th November.

 

 

We're delighted to be back at this event, which is doubtless the biggest dedicated vertebrate palaeontology conference in the world. As per our usual conference coverage, we’re aiming to produce daily multimedia reports to give you an indication of what it's like to attend such an event and also to bring you the latest news in the field.

Direct download: 2014_SVP_3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:32pm UTC

Welcome to our coverage of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual conference held this year at the Estrel Hotel, Berlin, between the 5th and 9th November.

 

We're delighted to be back at this event, which is doubtless the biggest dedicated vertebrate palaeontology conference in the world. As per our usual conference coverage, we’re aiming to produce daily multimedia reports to give you an indication of what it's like to attend such an event and also to bring you the latest news in the field.

Direct download: 2014_SVP_2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:03pm UTC

Welcome to our coverage of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology annual conference held this year at the Estrel Hotel, Berlin, between the 5th and 9th November.

We're delighted to be back at this event, which is doubtless the biggest dedicated vertebrate palaeontology conference in the world. As per our usual conference coverage, we’re aiming to produce daily multimedia reports to give you an indication of what it's like to attend such an event and also to bring you the latest news in the field.

Direct download: 2014_SVP_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:28am UTC

The Emu Bay shale is a Burgess Shale-type lagerstätte from the Early Cambrian of South Australia. We speak to Dr John Paterson, of the University of New England, all about the locality and the fossils it contains.

Direct download: Ep36.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:02pm UTC

Ostracods are tiny crustaceans (relatives of shrimps, crabs and water-fleas), distinguished by having a shell that is easily fossilised. As microfossils, by virtue of a long and rich fossil record, ostracods are extremely useful for determining the age of the sedimentary strata in which they are found, as well as providing clues to the nature of the environments and climates in which those deposits were formed. The first ostracods lived in shallow continental shelf seas during the early Ordovician period nearly 500 million years ago, later spreading and diversifying into deep oceanic as well as continental environments such as lakes and rivers.  Today, as living organisms, they are globally widespread and diverse, inhabiting almost every kind of aquatic environment from the abyssal depths of the oceans to freshwater ponds.

Direct download: Ep35.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:06am UTC

Welcome to the final day of our coverage of the 4th International Palaeontological Congress (IPC4) from Mendoza, Argentina. 

Direct download: IPC4_Day4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:58am UTC

Welcome to the third day of our coverage of the 4th International Palaeontological Congress (IPC4) from Mendoza, Argentina. 

Direct download: IPC4_Day3.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:33pm UTC

Welcome to the second day of our coverage of the 4th International Palaeontological Congress (IPC4) from Mendoza, Argentina. 

Direct download: IPC4_Day2.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:26am UTC

Welcome to our coverage of the 4th International Palaeontological Congress (IPC4) from Mendoza, Argentina. The International Palaeontological Congress is a global meeting devoted to Palaeontology throughout the world. It convenes every four years under the aegis of the International Palaeontological Association. Following tree previous editions in Sydney (2002), Beijing (2006) and London (2010), it now comes to the American continent for the first time.

This conference is one of the most important events on any palaeontologist's calendar and so draws in delegates from all corners of the globe. Over the next few days we're going to have a fantastic opportunity to hear about the latest research in the field with more of a focus on the Southern Hemisphere. 

Direct download: IPC4_Day1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:06am UTC

Planktonic foraminifera are single celled organisms that are highly abundant in modern oceans and a hugely important part of the Earth’s carbon cycle. Each cell builds a hard calcite ‘test’ around itself in a huge variety of shapes. These tests continuously rain down on to the ocean floor leaving continuous records of how these organisms have changed over millions of years. They form the most complete fossil record we have, and are a very useful tool in everything from the oil industry to understanding how evolution works.

Direct download: Ep34b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:45pm UTC

Planktonic foraminifera are single celled organisms that are highly abundant in modern oceans and a hugely important part of the Earth's carbon cycle. Each cell builds a hard calcite 'test' around itself in a huge variety of shapes. These tests continuously rain down on to the ocean floor leaving continuous records of how these organisms have changed over millions of years. They form the most complete fossil record we have, and are a very useful tool in everything from the oil industry to understanding how evolution works.

In this episode we talk to Dr Tracy Aze from the University of Leeds about her research using planktonic forams to understand macroevolutionary change, as well as decoding their record to map major climate events and temperatures throughout geological history.

Direct download: Ep34a.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:21pm UTC

We now find ourselves embarking upon our third year, but before we do so, we're going to take a look back at last year and see what we've all been up to.

Direct download: Ep33.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:29pm UTC

We’re all familiar with canines (dogs, wolves, jackals, foxes, etc), but these are just only one of three sub-families of the larger canid family to survive to the present day. There were also the Hesperocyoninae and Borophaginae, but what did these other canids look like and why did they go extinct? The canid family also falls within the larger suborder Caniformia which includes skunks, bears and seals, but how are all these related?

Direct download: Ep32B.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

Episode 32A: Canids

We're all familiar with canines (dogs, wolves, jackals, foxs, etc), but these are just only one of three sub-families of the larger canid family to survive to the present day. There were also the Hesperocyoninae and Borophaginae, but what did these other canids look like and why did they go extinct? The canid family also falls within the larger suborder Caniformia which includes skunks, bears and seals, but how are all these related?

We've therefore quite a lot of history of the group to cover before we eventually see Canis lupus familiaris become man's best friend. To talk us through their evolution is Dr Xiaoming Wang of the Natural History Museum, Los Angeles.

Direct download: Ep32A.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:15pm UTC

Anomalocaridids are iconic Cambrian animals, originally found in the Burgess Shale deposits in Canada. From the Genus Anomalocaris, their name translates as 'strange shrimp' owing to their initial misidentification from incomplete remains. In fact, it took until 1985 to realise that three different animals were all actually disarticulated parts of the same animal! Our knowledge of these enigmatic creatures has increased exponentially in recent years owing to many exciting new fossil discoveries, as well as reanalysis of old specimens using new technologies. Researchers are  building up a picture of a group of animals  far more diverse than previously expected, including apex predators as well as possible filter feeders and scavengers. Their temporal range is surprising too - they survived the end Cambrian extinctions when many other taxa died out, and many questions about their ecology, relationships and extinction remain to be answered.

Direct download: Ep_31.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:29am UTC

The celebrate the launch of 'The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi' from Titan Books we take a look at the field of palaeoart. In this episode, we're joined by Julius himself and ask how his images are produced, why they're produced and to discuss the value of palaeoart. We also run our first competition, please follow using #palaeocastart

 

Direct download: Ep30.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

One of the longest-ranging and outwardly primitive-looking groups of animals on the planet are the Medusozoa. In consisting of around 95% water, it may be surprising to know that there is a fossil record of jellyfish, however how does one differentiate their fossils from other abiotic sedimentary structures when both look like sub-spherical blobs?

 

In this episode we speak to Graham Young, Curator of Geology and Paleontology at The Manitoba Museum, Canada, who addressed the identification of jellyfish fossils in a recent paper Young & Hagadorn 2010 The fossil record of cnidarian medusae.

Direct download: Ep29B.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

One of the longest-ranging and outwardly primitive-looking groups of animals on the planet are the Medusozoa. In consisting of around 95% water, it may be surprising to know that there is a fossil record of jellyfish, however how does one differentiate their fossils from other abiotic sedimentary structures when both look like sub-spherical blobs?

In this episode we speak to Graham Young, Curator of Geology and Paleontology at The Manitoba Museum, Canada, who addressed the identification of jellyfish fossils in a recent paper Young & Hagadorn 2010 The fossil record of cnidarian medusae.

Direct download: Ep29A.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:33am UTC