Smilodon is probably one of the most iconic mammalian apex predators with its extended upper canines and robustly-built forearms. In fact, when we compare Smilodon to modern cats (felids), we don’t see these same characteristics. So what were they used for? Was Smilodon specialised for any particular behaviour?

Owing to the unique preservation of the tar seeps at Rancho La Brea, Los Angeles, USA, we can find an overabundance of predators, including Smilodon fatalis, Canis dirus, Panthera atrox and Puma concolor. This allows researchers to reconstruct the predatory landscape of the area in the Pleistocene. Who was eating what? Was there any competition between predators?

All of these questions feed in to the ‘dietary ecology’ of Smilodon and here to discuss that, and more, is Dr Larisa DeSantis of Vanderbilt University.

Direct download: Ep121.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:17pm UTC

It wouldn’t be outlandish to state that many a fossil collection has started with the acquisition of an ammonite. Their planispiral shells (termed a conch) are instantly recognisable and since that conch was originally composed of the relatively hard mineral aragonite, they better lend themselves to the fossilisation process.

But how much do we actually know about the animal that produces the conch? We might be able to make superficial inferences based on comparisons with the modern Nautilus, but ammonites are actually closer related to squid and octopuses.

So could you recognise an ammonite without its shell?

Prof. Christian Klug of the University of Zurich has recently described just that: a naked ammonite. In this episode, we learn about ammonite soft body anatomy and sink our teeth into the mystery of how this ammonite lost its shell.

Direct download: Ep120.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 5:52pm UTC