Terror birds, or phorusrhacids as they are known scientifically, are a group of large, flightless birds that lived during the Cenozoic, and truly lived up to their name. Known for their large, powerful skulls, and enormous beaks, these birds are unlike the flightless birds we have alive today. Despite their strange appearance and unique morphology, terror birds aren't well known in popular culture. What were they doing? How big did they get? What did they eat?

In this episode, we talk to a leading terror bird expert, Dr Federico "Dino" Degrange from the Centro de Investigaciones en Ciencias de la Tierra (CICTERRA) in Córdoba, Argentina to get answers to these questions. We discuss some of his recent research, and what we know (and don't know) about phorusrhacids today.

Direct download: Ep103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:06am UTC

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: Ep102b.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:11pm UTC