Podcast 164 - Rails and Snails


The gang talks about two papers that are interested in iterative evolution, the repeated evolution of the same or similar morphological characteristics within or among species. Specifically, they are focused on iterative evolution in species on islands. The first paper they discuss looks at how being flightless might have evolved multiple times on the same island within the same species of rails. The second paper looks at repeated changes in developmental timing associated with climatic changes on an island. Also, James is an expert, Curt comes up with the best new Blue Sky series for the USA network “Rails and Snails”, and Amanda changes the podcast’s format.

Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):

Our friends talks about two times that weird things happen when animals get on an piece of land that is surrounded on all sides by water. The first paper looks at small light flying things. When these flying things get onto a piece of land surrounded by water, they seem to stop flying. However, they find these remains of these light flying things on this one piece of land so they can see how the way these remains look change, because the way these remains look will tell us if these light flying things had decided to stop flying. The cool thing is that many different flying groups of this same flying thing landed on this pieces of land surrounded by water and all decided to stop flying on their own. So the story for these light flying things is that they land on this piece of land surrounded by water, they stop flying, and then they die from breathing water when the land goes under, and then when the land is above the water, they repeat.

The second paper looks at how these things that sit there, have a rock around them, and pull food out of water change over time. What the paper finds is that these little things with a rock around them look very different when the water goes up and down. The paper says that this is because of changes in how these little animals with a rock around them grow up. Do they take longer to grow up, do they look more like grown ups or do they look more like babies? The changes they see in how these things grow up happen at the same time as changes in where the water is, as well as how hot or cold it is.


Hume, Julian P., and David Martill. "Repeated evolution of flightlessness in Dryolimnas rails (Aves: Rallidae) after extinction and recolonization on Aldabra." Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society (2019). 

 Hearty, Paul J., and Storrs L. Olson. "Environmental Stress and Iterative Paedomorphism in Shells of Poecilozonites (Gastropoda: Gastrodontidae) from Bermuda." Palaios 34.1 (2019): 32-42. 

Podcast 163 - Triassic Fish Questions


The gang discusses two papers that look at the extinction and survivorship patterns of clades across the Triassic mass extinction event. Specifically, they look at changes in morphospace in ray-finned fishes as well as phylogenetic patterns of extinction in early archosaurs. Interestingly enough, both studies suggest very low ecological selection (at least in the characteristics we can study in the fossil record), but the archosaur study shows clear phylogenetic clustering of extinction. Meanwhile, James works on his social media engagement, Amanda perfects the concept of a joke, and Curt discovers this podcast’s theme far too late.

Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):

The friends talk about two papers which look at a time that was really bad when nearly anything died. But this time is slightly different from the other, more well known ones. Its not the biggest, and its not the one everyone thinks of. Instead, this bad time when everything dies happens just a little after the worst of the bad times where everything dies, and may have been important for the angry animals with no hair and large teeth.

The friends talk about how two different types of animals that were changed by this really bad time. The first are things living in the water who can move through the water and have a flipper where their legs and arms should be. This first paper looks at how the form of these flipper animals changed before and after the bad time. What they found was that the form of these flipper animals didn't get changed by the both the really bad time, and the bad time very few people think about. They think this might mean that the bad time focused on hurting flipper animals that liked it to be warm or cold wet or dry. It also could be that these animals had a single job in their home. This is because form often changes when animals take on new jobs or move to a new home with different things the animals have to deal with. This might mean that these flipper animals just were not changed in any way but these big bad times of death.

But the other paper looks at animals on land who are aunt and uncle to the big angry animals with no hair and large teeth. This paper did not look at the form of these aunts and uncles, but it did look at the sons and daughters and brothers and sisters that these animals had. It also looked at how these aunts and uncles of big angry animals lived; what was their job and how did they like it (warm, cold, wet, dry)? What the paper found was the bad time of death did not kill these aunts and uncles of big angry animals because of their jobs or how they liked to live. So this seems pretty much the same as the paper about the flipper animals. However, the paper also found that if a close brother or sister died during the bad time, their closest brothers and sisters were also going to die. This makes things hard to understand, because close brothers and sisters usually live in places that are almost or very much the same and/or have jobs that are almost or very much the same. The bad time seems to be killing close families, but not because of how they like to live or their job. This could mean that we are missing important things about how this animals liked to live which we just aren't looking for, or maybe we can't look for. It also makes us wonder if more animals might show something very much the same to these flipper animals and these aunts and uncles of big angry animals.


Smithwick, Fiann M., and Thomas L. Stubbs. "Phanerozoic survivors: Actinopterygian evolution through the Permo‐Triassic and Triassic‐Jurassic mass extinction events." Evolution 72.2 (2018): 348-362. 

 Allen, Bethany J., et al. "Archosauromorph extinction selectivity during the Triassic–Jurassic mass extinction." Palaeontology 62.2 (2019): 211-224. 

Podcast 162 - Turtle Power


The gang discusses a few papers that look at the evolutionary history, biogeography, and life habit of Mesozoic turtles. Specifically, they look at a paper about a stem turtle with interesting information about the evolutionary history of turtle morphology, a paper on a special fossil of a marine turtle with exceptionally preserved eggs, and a paper that investigates the biogeographic history of turtles. Basically, its a whole lotta turtles! Meanwhile, James resurrects some old arguments, Curt revisits cherished film scenes, and Amanda has a new obsession.

Up-Goer Five (James Edition):

The group look at two papers that are looking at animals with four legs and hard parts on the outside that they can hide in. These things are found on land with legs and in the water with water legs that they use for being not on land. This is a very long set of words, so we will call them hard boys.

The first paper is looking at a hard boy that was full of little round things that would become babies. This is the second hard boy to be found with almost babies and can tell us whether hard boys had lots of babies or not a lot of babies. Hard boys that are in the water usually have a lot of babies that are not expected to live very long; this long dead hard boy actually had not many babies, so although it lived in the water it expected its babies to live.

The second paper is looking at where hard boys lived in the past and how they got to be where they are today. The paper shows that hard boys started in one place that was very big and that they stayed on it as it broke up over time. As it broke up they also moved between the bits, so the hard boys were able to move between the bits even though they are usually slow. They keep doing this until the bits get too far from each other to let the hard boys move across.


 Li, Chun, et al. "A Triassic stem turtle with an edentulous beak." Nature560.7719 (2018): 476. 

 Ferreira, Gabriel S., et al. "Phylogeny, biogeography and diversification patterns of side-necked turtles (Testudines: Pleurodira)." Royal Society open science 5.3 (2018): 171773. 

 Cadena, Edwin‐Alberto, et al. "A gravid fossil turtle from the Early Cretaceous reveals a different egg development strategy to that of extant marine turtles." Palaeontology (2018). 

Podcast 161 - Whales Not Whales


The gang discusses two papers that look at how various animals associated with whales have reacted to environmental shifts over the last several hundred thousand years. The first paper looks at polar bears and reviews data on the potential utility of whale carcasses on polar bear survival during warmer periods in recent Earth history. The second paper investigates how changes in the shell chemistry of barnacles attached to whales may preserve important information on whale migratory patterns. Meanwhile, James has ideas about Final Fantasy and all Square Enix protagonists, Curt thinks James is the Kuja of the podcast, and Amanda finds her ideal Nobody name. Somehow we got on a real theme this episode.

Up-Goer Five (Amanda Edition):

 Today our friends do not talk about very large big heavy things that had hair once. Instead our friends talk about small weird hard things that don't move that do not look like tiny things with many legs but are actually very close to tiny things with many legs. These things that do not look like tiny things with many legs but are actually very close to the tiny things with many legs are hard and live on the very large big heavy things that had hair once, but do not hurt them. They are friends, but the large big heavy things that had hair once don't actually care about the small weird hard things that don't move. But the small weird hard things that don't move can help us see if the big large heavy things that had hair once move around when it goes from warm to cold or not. It turns out that maybe even very old big large heavy things that had hair once might have moved around just like today's do. Our friends also talk about large white angry things with hair that want food that eat the large big heavy things that had hair once. These large white angry things with hair are in trouble because their home is going away. Their home has gone away in the past, and maybe they ate the big large heavy things that had hair once when they died and came on land. One big large heavy thing that had hair once can be food for lots and lots of large angry white things with hair. But people have killed a lot of the big large heavy things that had hair once, and that might be a problem. Maybe the big white angry things with hair won't be able to eat the large big heavy things that had hair once anymore, and they will all die.   


Taylor, Larry D., et al. "Isotopes from fossil coronulid barnacle shells record evidence of migration in multiple Pleistocene whale populations." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019): 201808759. 

 Laidre, Kristin L., et al. "Historical and potential future importance of large whales as food for polar bears." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 16.9 (2018): 515-524. 

Podcast 160 - Weasel Time


The gang finds two papers that discuss the ecology of fossil mustelids, the objectively best group of mammals. Both of these papers look at creative solutions to try and interpret past life habits for some very complex and debated fossil organisms. Meanwhile, James becomes passionate about food, Amanda wonders what sitcom the podcast must be, Curt discusses the true American Dream, and everyone is very sorry about how off track we get in this podcast. (Editor’s Note: We sort of get to talking about the papers around 7:45)

Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):

Our friends talk about cute long animals with hair that pretty much everyone of them loves. They find two papers that look at how some of the long animals from very very long again may have lived. They look at the hard parts of the head to see what these long animals could have eaten. Some of these long animal heads are really weird and have big raised edges on the top of the head. One of these papers look at using lot of numbers to try and figure out what one of these very old and weird looking long animals may have eaten. They find that there is a lot of things we need to look at and consider if we want to try and figure out what these very old animals ate. They find that its actually very hard to do, but that's a cool and good thing. We need to use lots of different numbers and study lots of different parts if we want to get a good understand of these very very old animals.


Valenciano, Alberto, et al. "Megalictis, the bone-crushing giant mustelid (Carnivora, Mustelidae, Oligobuninae) from the Early Miocene of North America." PloS one 11.4 (2016): e0152430. 

 Prybyla, Alixandra N., Zhijie Jack Tseng, and John J. Flynn. "Biomechanical simulations of Leptarctus primus (Leptarctinae, Carnivora), and new evidence for a badger-like feeding capability." Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology (2019): e1531290. 

Podcast 159 - Rocks Fall Everyone Dies; The Cretaceous Mass Extinction


The gang discusses two papers about the Cretaceous mass extinction event (i.e. the time that the non-avian dinosaurs died). Specifically, they talk about the Deccan Traps, a widespread volcanic province that was active during the extinction event. The first paper studies the timing of the volcanic activity to determine if the onset of volcanism can be explained by the large bollide impact (Editors Note: Apologies to all igneous petrologists who will likely be yelling at our ignorance of hard rock geology). The second paper uses ecological niche modeling to see if dinosaurs were experiencing significant reduction in their geographic range before the extinction event. Also, James is in a “good” mood, so please enjoy as we bounce between topics like Sinclair oil, the French Revolution, “training” children, and experiences at paleo festivals. Its definitely one of those podcasts.

Up-Goer Five (Amanda Edition):

 Today our friends talk about the time when the big angry animals with no hair and large teeth all died. One of the ideas is that a very big rock hit and killed everything. Another idea is that rock that acts like water came out of the ground and changed the air and that killed everything by making things too warm or too cold. Many people are starting to think the rock that acts like water that came out of the ground killed the big angry animals with no hair and large teeth, because it seems like they died more slowly that maybe they should have if a big rock hit the ground and killed everything. That would be very fast. But then maybe the big rock that hit the ground really did kill everything, because it turns out that the rock that acts like water that came out of the ground maybe didn't happen at the same time that the big angry animals with no hair and large teeth died. It might also be that big angry animals with no hair and large teeth were maybe around in more places and maybe there were more big angry animals with no hair and large teeth than we think because we only have rocks in some places from some times and that makes it look like the big angry animals with no hair and large teeth died slowly, but maybe they actually died fast.


 Sprain, Courtney J., et al. "The eruptive tempo of Deccan volcanism in relation to the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary." Science 363.6429 (2019): 866-870. 

 Chiarenza, Alfio Alessandro, et al. "Ecological niche modelling does not support climatically-driven dinosaur diversity decline before the Cretaceous/Paleogene mass extinction." Nature communications 10 (2019). 

Podcast 158 - Is Eevee a Mammal?

dmx eevee.png

The gang celebrates their 6th anniversary by taking some time to talk about two papers about early mammal ecology. The first paper looks at some unique traces left by Mesozoic mammals, while the second paper attempts to determine how early mammals might have chewed their food. Meanwhile, James has made friends with his new Eevee named DMX, Amanda finds the fuel to sustain herself, and Curt imagines some tactical mammal stealth action.

<EDITOR’S NOTE: If you’re wondering if Curt went all the way into making a complete edit on that song near the end….. of course he did: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-fs-Qx8W18 >

Up-Goer Five (James Edition):

Today the group looks at two papers dealing with animals with warm blood and hair and looking at how they lived a long time ago. The first paper is looking at tracks of animals with hair that look a bit weird, with one side pushing down more than the other. The people studying the tracks think that they could have been made by an animal with hair carrying babies on it. This would be interesting as it would suggest that the animals with hair looked after their babies and let them drink warm white wet stuff from their bodies even this long ago. In order to see whether the tracks were made by an animal with hair that carried babies, the people writing the paper took an animal with hair that eats things people throw out but people also keep as animal friends and stuck things to it to make it carry them as if it was carrying babies to see if when it tried to walk it made tracks like they see in the rocks. It really just wanted to lie down but when it did walk it made tracks just like they see in the rock from a long time ago! The second paper is looking at how animals with hair that are around today eat their food and seeing how much it is the same or different to how animals with hair a long time ago ate. They show that they eat a way that we were not thinking they would and actually roll their mouth when biting, and that some of our strangest animals with hair that are part of an older group than most of our other animals with hair actually eat the same was as animals with hair from a very long time ago ate.


Kuznetsov, Alexander N., and Aleksandra A. Panyutina. "First Paleoichnological Evidence for Baby–Riding in Early Mammals." Ameghiniana 55.6 (2018): 668-677. 

 Bhullar, Bhart-Anjan S., et al. "Rolling of the jaw is essential for mammalian chewing and tribosphenic molar function." Nature (2019): 1. 

Pokemon and "Pokemon: Let's Go Eevee" are the properties of Nintendo, Creatures, and Game Freak ; "X Gonna Give It To Ya" by DMX owned by Def Jam and the Universal Music Group.

Podcast 157 - A Sticky Situation; More Talk of Vertebrates in Amber


<EDITORS NOTE: As discussed in the very beginning of the episode, we had some serious audio issues which meant that the recording quality is not up to our usual quality. We apologize for the degraded audio quality in this episode, but future episodes should not have this issue.>

The gang discusses two papers about the interesting vertebrate remains in Myanmar amber, including a neonate snake and an Enantiornithean bird, and discuss the ecological and evolutionary implications of these fossils. Meanwhile, Curt starts a terrible “theory”, James measures his hands, and Amanda might be responsible for some collusion.

Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):

Our friends talk about very thick stuff that sticks together and comes off of trees and often living things end up inside of it and dying. Most of the time, old tree stuff just has small animals who have their hard parts on the outside. This very old tree stuff is very is not like a lot of other old tree stuff because it also has a lot of big animals in it who have hard parts on the inside. Our friends talk about the animals that ended up inside this old tree stuff. One of the animals in the old tree stuff is a baby long animal without legs. This baby long animal with no legs gives us a look at a type of animal we often do not get to see in old rocks and lets us know that some of these old long animals without legs may have lived in trees. The other parts that ended up in this old tree stuff were from an animal who could fly. One of these animals who could fly ended up in the tree stuff, and all we have left are a foot and part of the arm like thing they use to fly. This animal that can fly shows is very different from the animals that can fly today that are brothers and sisters to it. The foot has things coming off of it that are weird. In both of these papers, we can see how this old tree stuff gives us very important facts about how animals that used to be in the world a long long time ago.


 Xing, Lida, et al. "A mid-Cretaceous embryonic-to-neonate snake in amber from Myanmar." Science advances 4.7 (2018): eaat5042. 

 Xing, Lida, et al. "A fully feathered enantiornithine foot and wing fragment preserved in mid-Cretaceous Burmese amber." Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 927. 

"Hep Cats" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)

Licensed by Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


Podcast 156 - Never Underestimate the Little Snake


The gang discuss two papers that look at the links between morphology and ecology. Specifically, they discuss a fossil marine reptile with a very unique looking skull that gives clues to a possible “platypus” like life-habit. However, they also discuss a modern ecological study of crustacean-eating snakes which shows that sometimes unique behaviors can greatly expand the potential prey species available to a predator. Meanwhile, James regales us with tales of an epic battle, Amanda is good at social interactions, and Curt ponders anime betrayals.

<FYI: The second paper has a video supplemental information showing snake feeding strategies. This is exactly what it sounds like. It is interesting, but you have been warned. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtMR7I38s1U >

Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition):

Our friends talk about animals with small heads and how these animals lived and ate. First, they talk about a thing that lived in the big blue wet place a long long time ago which had a very very large body. Before hand, we didn't know what the head of this thing looked like. But now we found out that it had a really really small head for its really big body. Also, the head is weird, and has these cuts in it that seem to be where a round long mouth thing used to be. Also, it has a strange hard part in the middle of the head which is not stuck to anything. All of these weird head bits are very much like what we see in one weird animal today which looks like it was made from parts of other animals. This has lead people to think that this old animal who lived in the big blue wet place might have eaten in a way that is a lot like this animal we have today that looks like it was made from parts of other animals.

Next, our friends talk about these animals with no legs who eat rock hard animals with cutting hands who sometimes lose their skin. There are lots of types of these animals with no legs, but only a few of these animals with no legs try to eat these rock hard animals with cutting hands who sometimes lose their skin. This paper wanted to know how these animals with no legs go about eating these rock hard animals. It turns out there are many different ways to do it, with some of them pulling off legs, some of them eating the rock hard animals whole, and some of them waiting until these rock hard animals lose their skin. But the really cool thing is that animals with no legs who had very small mouths could actually eat rock hard animals much larger than themselves. By waiting until these rock hard animals lost their skin, these very small animals with no legs could tear their food to small pieces while it was still able to move and breathe. So the way that the animal with no legs lived was very important for deciding which of the rock hard animals it could eat.


Cheng, Long, et al. "Early Triassic marine reptile representing the oldest record of unusually small eyes in reptiles indicating non-visual prey detection." Scientific reports 9.1 (2019): 152. 

 Jayne, Bruce C., Harold K. Voris, and Peter KL Ng. "How big is too big? Using crustacean-eating snakes (Homalopsidae) to test how anatomy and behaviour affect prey size and feeding performance." Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 123.3 (2018): 636-650. 

Podcast 155 - But What Would It Taste Like


The gang discusses two papers that use fossil evidence to interpret physiology and functional morphology of extinct animals. First, we discuss a new study that suggests ichthyosaurs may have evolved blubber to help them regulate their temperatures. Second, we talk about a new study that uses robotic models to test how early tetrapods may have moved. Meanwhile, Amanda mixes caffeine and alcohol, Curt forgets Shane Black movies, and James tries to pull the ultimate mid episode twist. <Editor’s note: James finally gets to starting the podcast roughly 10 minutes in after forcing connections for every minor digression>

Up-Goer Five (Amanda Edition):

Today our friends talk about animals that are very big but not large, and how early animals with four feet walked. The first paper is very good and talks about an animal that looked like an animal that breathes water but actually is an animal that has just skin and breathes air. These animals had thick skin with lots of stuff under the skin like cute animals with hair that live where it's cold. This stuff is very very very easy to see in this old animal. It also has color. But real color not color that might not be real like in other old animals. One friend thinks that this animal might be very good to eat. Our friends also talk about a very good paper that looks at how early animals with four feet walked. This paper has a lot of people all working together and they do a lot of different things that they are all very good at, so this paper does some different things than other papers. They make a not-real animal, both in a computer and in real life. The computer not-real animal is used to make sure the real-life not-real animal can do things right. It looks like a lot of work. Then they make the real-life not-real animal walk and show that it looks like foot marks left a long time ago by early animals with four feet. They make the real-life not-real animal walk a number of different ways to make sure that they are doing the right thing. The real-life not-real animal leaves foot marks that match up just right with the foot marks left a long time ago.  


 Nyakatura, John A., et al. "Reverse-engineering the locomotion of a stem amniote." Nature 565.7739 (2019): 351. 

 Lindgren, Johan, et al. "Soft-tissue evidence for homeothermy and crypsis in a Jurassic ichthyosaur." Nature 564.7736 (2018): 359.