The Mesozoic Era saw the spectacular rise and fall of many groups, particularly in terrestrial vertebrates. These include birds, squamates, crocodiles, and pterosaurs, who wove a complex tapestry of evolution through the 185 million years of the Mesozoic, some even persisting until now. Dave Hone, now of Queen Mary in London, has extensively studied the ecology of many of these now-extinct organisms, especially theropod dinosaurs, to gain rare insights into how they would have lived millions of years ago. You can keep track of his research by following his blogs at the Guardian and Archosaur Musings webpages.

Direct download: Ep_8.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC

We can observe colour to be highly important for animals today. It can be used for many different purposes, including camouflage and signalling, and produced by many different methods. What is true of colouration today is also likely to have been so in the past, however the fossilisation process replaces tissues with minerals, so finding hints of colour in fossils is very unlikely. There are however certain colour producing structures that can survive the fossilisation process. We visit the University of Bristol to talk to Maria McNamara, a post-doctoral research assistant, to learn more about the preservation of colour in the fossil record.

Direct download: Ep7.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:14pm UTC

Vertebrates are one of the most diverse and successful groups of animals on the planet.  Modern vertebrates come in an astounding array of sizes and shapes and can be found anywhere from the deepest oceans to the highest mountains.  Yet vertebrates did not attain such success from the outset; their rise to dominance was gradual. The early evolution of vertebrates was a dynamic and, at times, a turbulent interval which, through studying the fossil record, we are able to understand in increasing detail.  We talk to Dr Lauren Sallan, who is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan studying early vertebrate evolution, biodiversity and ecology.

Direct download: Ep6.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am UTC

The biota of the Ediacaran period (635 - 541 ma) is of critical importance to our understanding of the origin of animals because it immediately precedes the Cambrian fauna, from which all subsequent animal life evolved. Localities of this age are justly famous for the exceptional quality of preservation of soft-bodied organisms. One of the best known and most important Ediacaran localities is at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland, Canada. We got to talk to Dr. Alex Liu, a research fellow at the University of Cambridge, about Mistaken Point, and the nature of its biota.

Direct download: Ep5_Mistaken_Point.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm UTC

We interview Professor William Stein of Binghamton University about the world's first forets at Gilboa, NY, USA. We talk through the history of the research at this famous locality covering the destruction of the village of Gilboa and some of the 'paleontological difficulties' the researchers found themselves in.  We discuss the palaeobotany and palaeoecology of the forests and the effect the evolution of such communities had on the world.

Direct download: Episode_4.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:03pm UTC

Episode 3: Amber and Parasitism

We got a chance to talk to Dr. George Poinar of Oregon State University about his work in amber. We discuss what it is and how it forms, but also talk about the organisms that are preserved within and the organisms within those organisms. From identifying genuine from fake amber, to parasite behaviour modification and palaeopathology, this episode has it all!

Direct download: Amber_and_parasitism.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm UTC

You may be forgiven for having missed the news of NASA's Curiosity rover, or Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), having landed on Mars, given all the coverage the 2012 Olympics had been getting.

To try and even this up, we got in touch with Dr. Leila Battison, a palaeontologist from the University of Oxford, UK, who is currently working at NASA, researching the earliest life in the fossil record and the conditions it needed to survive. We discussed NASA's mission to Mars and explored what kind of things we could expect from any signs of life on another planet based on what we know about early life on Earth from the fossil record.

Direct download: Ep_1_1.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00am UTC