Episode 153 - Armadillos
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
2d ago
Built-in body armor is common among reptiles and rare among mammals, but armadillos are the major exception. Equipped with a full set of segmented armor over their heads, backs, and tails, armadillos have been waddling around well-protected for tens of millions of years, and their ancient relatives include some of the most famous and preposterous of extinct mammals. This episode, we discuss the unique features and fascinating history of armadillos, glyptodonts, and their other ancient cousins. In the news: roots and extinction, new croc-like reptiles, early cooking, and giant turtles. Time mar ..read more
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Episode 152 - The Jehol Biota
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
2w ago
You might have noticed that over the last few decades, a lot of really exciting and famous fossil discoveries have been coming out of China. If you pay close attention, you might even catch that many of them are coming from the same place: the incredible fossil assemblages of the Jehol Biota. We’ve mentioned Jehol fossils many times on the podcast, but in this episode, we focus on the big picture: where do these fossils come from, why are they so incredibly well-preserved, and what are just some of the fascinating research questions we can answer by examining these amazing fossils? In the news ..read more
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Episode 151 - Tails
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
1M ago
Look at the various animals on Earth – or rather, look just behind them – and you’ll see a vast variety of tails! Tails and tail-like structures are often simple extensions of the body, and yet they’ve been adapted and modified into many shapes with many functions, and because they’re often so important to an animal’s lifestyle, they can be especially useful for paleontologists trying to understand ancient animals. In this episode, we’ll discuss definitions, diversity, functions, and fossils of tails. In the news: drought fossils, early fish jaws, early fish fins, and paleontology video games ..read more
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Spook-E - Mimics
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
1M ago
Welcome ... to Spookulative Evolution. October is here, and that means it’s time for Spook-E! Each episode throughout this month, we’re choosing a monster and discussing how it – or something like it – might evolve under the rules of evolution and natural selection, pulling inspiration from organisms of the real world. This year’s theme: monsters of Dungeons and Dragons. This episode, we delve into a paranoia-inducing scourge of dungeons. What hypothetical natural scenario might cultivate a shape-shifting ambush hunter that disguises itself as inanimate objects? Our creatures to create this ti ..read more
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Spook-E - Beholders
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
1M ago
Welcome ... to Spookulative Evolution. October is here, and that means it’s time for Spook-E! Each episode throughout this month, we’re choosing a monster and discussing how it – or something like it – might evolve under the rules of evolution and natural selection, pulling inspiration from organisms of the real world. This year’s theme: monsters of Dungeons and Dragons. This episode, we gaze upon something truly alien. Can we formulate an evolutionary path to produce a malicious floating orb creature that stares at the world through many eyes? Our creatures to create this time: Beholders. Joi ..read more
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Episode 150 - Stegosaurs
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
1M ago
Stegosaurus is one of the all-time most famous and recognizable dinosaurs, but it wasn’t alone! Its whole extended family, the stegosaurs, were medium- to large-sized herbivorous dinosaurs sporting an array of plates and spikes. This episode, we discuss the diversity and deep history of stegosaurs, what we know of their lifestyles, and of course the big questions: just what were they doing with that ridiculous armor? In the news: Moon impacts, bird brains, Jurassic vomit, and super-old algae. Time markers: Intro & Announcements: 00:00:00 News: 00:05:30 Main discussion, Part 1: 00:31:00 Mai ..read more
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Spook-E - Displacer Beasts
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
1M ago
Welcome ... to Spookulative Evolution. October is here, and that means it’s time for Spook-E! Each episode throughout this month, we’re choosing a monster and discussing how it – or something like it – might evolve under the rules of evolution and natural selection, pulling inspiration from organisms of the real world. This year’s theme: monsters of Dungeons and Dragons. This episode, we roll out a monster that’s tough to get grasp on. From where on the tree of life might we develop a many-limbed predator with a knack for fooling the eye? Our creatures to create this time: Displacer beasts. Jo ..read more
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Spook-E - Owlbears
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
1M ago
Welcome ... to Spookulative Evolution. October is here, and that means it’s time for Spook-E! Each episode throughout this month, we’re choosing a monster and discussing how it – or something like it – might evolve under the rules of evolution and natural selection, pulling inspiration from organisms of the real world. This year’s theme: monsters of Dungeons and Dragons. This episode, we play with a classic chimera. How might nature select for a beast that combines the fierce features of a bear and a bird of prey? Our creatures to create this time: Owlbears. Join the Common Descent Discord ser ..read more
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Episode 149 - Ants
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
2M ago
In our modern world, ants are so ubiquitous that it’s difficult to image our planet without them, so successful that they shape the environments around them despite their tiny size, and so diverse that we couldn’t possibly discuss even a small fraction of their diversity in this one podcast episode. We’ll touch on some of what makes ants unique, list a few of our favorite examples of modern ant lifestyles, and dive into what is known about their ancient history and evolution. Get ready for fire ants, bullet ants, dinosaur ants, hell ants, and more. In the news: mysterious maybe-molluscs, giant ..read more
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Episode 147 - Genetics
The Common Descent Podcast
by Common Descent
3M ago
For many years, scientists pondered the question: how and why do offspring inherit traits from their parents? And key to the answer to that question is another question: what determines an organism’s traits in the first place? The pursuit of these answers ultimately led to the modern field of genetics, which itself is crucial to the study of evolution. This episode, we address just a few key points on this vast topic, with a focus on how our understanding of genetics allows us to interpret the history of evolution on our planet. In the news: early fruit-eating, giant Australian birds, beaver e ..read more
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