Palaeo After Dark

It's that time of year again, so James and Curt bring you day by day coverage of the 2015 Geological Society of America meeting, joined by friends Brendan Anderson and Tory McCoy. So join us for an ethically compromised good time as they discuss the fascinating work of strangers, friends, and themselves.

Day 1: James and Curtis

Day 2: James, Curtis, and Brendan starts at 0:50.40

Day 3: James, Curtis, Brendan, and Tory starts at 2:03.22.

Direct download: Podcast_71_-_GSA_2015.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang discusses two papers that deal with the events that led to the extinction of the early metazoan Ediacaran fauna, as well as the extinction's philosophical ramifications for our understanding of evolution in general. Chaos runs rampant throughout this podcast as our figurative and literal systems break down through time. But somehow, life.... finds a way.... through a 4G network. Meanwhile, Amanda jumps the gun, Curt makes jokes no one can understand, James "wins" again, and everyone slowly succumbs to chaos and madness. If you're just joining us for the first time, I'm so very... very sorry. 



Darroch, Simon AF, et al. "Biotic replacement and mass extinction of the Ediacara biota." Proc. R. Soc. B. Vol. 282. No. 1814. The Royal Society, 2015.

Erwin, Douglas H. "Was the Ediacaran–Cambrian radiation a unique evolutionary event?." Paleobiology 41.01 (2015): 1-15.

Direct download: Podcast_70_-_Systems_Breaking_Down_The_End_of_the_Ediacaran.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:00am EDT

The gang finally just does what comes naturally and discusses two papers about food. Specifically, one paper on why things aren't tasty and another answering the vital question "what foods in the past would be kosher" (the answer might just surprise you). Meanwhile, Amanda finds her spirit animal, James details our terrifying corporate future, and Curt wants to play a game. TRIGGER WARNING: Mild joking reference to sexual-violence and mascots in the first two minutes. TRIGGER WARNING: We talk about eating meat throughout. 

Up-goer five simple-speak text:

The group talks about two papers that look at food and which animals make good food. The first paper looks at the babies of small animals that have pretty things that let them fly. They find out that the babies that ate things with leaves that made bad food also made bad food themselves and would be ignored by other small animals that tried to eat them. The other paper works out whether animals in the past would have been good food for people that have very few things they can eat. The paper uses different ways of telling what things had to show that these people would not be able to eat most things.



Dyer, Lee A. "Tasty generalists and nasty specialists? Antipredator mechanisms in tropical lepidopteran larvae." Ecology (1995): 1483-1496.

Plotnick, Roy E., Jessica M. Theodor, and Thomas R. Holtz Jr. "Jurassic Pork: What Could a Jewish Time Traveler Eat?." Evolution: Education and Outreach8.1 (2015): 1-14.

Direct download: Podcast_69_-_Tasty_Kosher_Food.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang discusses two papers about the evolutionary placement of some Cretaceous flowering plants (angiosperms). Meanwhile, Amanda finds her alter ego,  James goes very old school with his jokes, and Curt really doesn't want to talk about the next paper.



Friis, Else Marie, et al. "Archaefructus–angiosperm precursor or specialized early angiosperm?." Trends in plant science 8.8 (2003): 369-373.

Gomez, Bernard, et al. "Montsechia, an ancient aquatic angiosperm."Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112.35 (2015): 10985-10988.

Direct download: Podcast_68_-_Plonts.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang discusses two papers that detail how the stratigraphic record affects our understanding of the fossil record.  Meanwhile, Amanda gets very enthusiastic, James burns straw men,  and Curt isn't sorry.



Benton, Michael J. "Palaeodiversity and formation counts: redundancy or bias?." Palaeontology (2015).

Holland, Steven M., and Mark E. Patzkowsky. "The stratigraphy of mass extinction." Palaeontology (2015).

Direct download: Podcast_67_-_Stratigraphic_Bias.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

In this episode the gang tries to have a discussion about the fossil preservation of birds. Instead they get completely sidetracked imagining the penguin apocalypse. Meanwhile, Amanda slowly goes crazy, James keeps hearing things, and Curt delights in a mispronunciation.


"Up goer five" text summary

This time the group looks at papers about how animals that have bits that mean they can fly break down when they are dead. The first paper looks at what happens to animals that have bits that mean they can fly when their bodies are left in bad water. These studies are used to see how long animals that could fly were dead before they were covered by stuff in old places where lots of dead things are found in the same place. The study shows that there are fewer types of animals that could fly in these old places where lots of dead things are found in the same place than we would expect. The second paper uses a computer to find out whether we should expect to find all the types of animals that could fly in these old places where lots of dead things are found in the same place. This study shows that we should not expect to find all of the animals that could fly in these old places, but instead that because on the type of old place we should expect to see different types of animals that could fly because of where they lived.



Davis, Paul G., and Derek EG Briggs. "The impact of decay and disarticulation on the preservation of fossil birds." Palaios 13.1 (1998): 3-13.

Mitchell, Jonathan S. "Preservation is predictable: quantifying the effect of taphonomic biases on ecological disparity in birds." Paleobiology 41.02 (2015): 353-367.

Direct download: Podcast_66_-_Penguin_Death_Land.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang goes broad and tackles two papers that deal with evidence of sex and reproduction in the fossil record. Meanwhile, Amanda goes method, James invents a new scientific term, and Curt is haunted by one terrible joke that will not die.

"Hyperfun" Kevin MacLeod ( 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0

"Up goer five" text summary

Today the group talks about fucking. Yes, fuck is one of the ten hundred most used words, while better and less bad words for fucking are not. You think what that means about people. Just think about it.

The first paper is looking at the oldest pictures of stuff that comes out of a man after he has had a fuck. This fuck water is from a small animal with no hard parts and so we usually do not know that the animal was there. However, the fuck water is different for different types of small animal, and so we can see what small animals with no hard parts were there without seeing the actual animals. The fuck water has also been ignored for a long time, so we may be able to find more fuck water and find out more about small animals with no hard parts.

The second paper is looking at some of the earliest things that might be animals and their babies. Looking at where the babies are and where the parents are, the paper tries to work out whether these things that might be animals that fucked or whether they just grew babies off of them on sticks. The numbers show that these maybe animals did not fuck, but grew babies on sticks. Other things that might be animals from the same time did fuck, and they are found in many more places. The fact that these maybe animals grew babies on sticks might explain why they are found in only one place while the ones that did fuck are found in lots of places.


Bomfleur, Benjamin, et al. "Fossilized spermatozoa preserved in a 50-Myr-old annelid cocoon from Antarctica." Biology letters 11.7 (2015): 20150431.

Mitchell, Emily G., et al. "Reconstructing the reproductive mode of an Ediacaran macro-organism." Nature (2015).

Direct download: Podcast_65_-_SEX.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang discusses two papers about the evolution of quadrupedal lifestyle in ornithischian dinosaurs. Also, James discusses the joys of being a squid, Curt details the ideal political tag-team match,  and Amanda dreams of HD belts.

"Up goer five" text summary

The group talks about big angry animals without hair - again. This time they look at two studies that look at how one group of big angry animals with no hair went from walking on two feet to walking on four. Three different bands of friends in the group have gone back to walking on four feet by themselves. The first paper looks at figuring out the soft parts to work out how they walked and finds that each of these three types of big angry animals without hair walk in different ways, even though they all walk on four feet. The second paper looks at why these three types of animal have gone back to walking on four feet by seeing where they got big and whether it would make them fall forwards or back. This was studied by sticking heavy bits of animals with stuff on them onto animals which did not have stuff on them to see whether it made them fall over. The study shows that the different animal groups went onto four feet for different reasons, and this may explain why the different groups walking on four feet walk in different ways.


Maidment, Susannah CR, and Paul M. Barrett. "Does morphological convergence imply functional similarity? A test using the evolution of quadrupedalism in ornithischian dinosaurs." Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 279.1743 (2012): 3765-3771.

Maidment, Susannah CR, Donald M. Henderson, and Paul M. Barrett. "What drove reversions to quadrupedality in ornithischian dinosaurs? Testing hypotheses using centre of mass modelling." Naturwissenschaften 101.11 (2014): 989-1001.

Direct download: Podcast_64_-_Walk_Before_You_Crawl_Convergence_in_Dinosaur_Gait.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang discusses two papers about the evolution (and loss) of hypercarnivory in mammals. Meanwhile, Amanda shares more equine history, Curt does his best to kill a trend, and James goes "nuclear". Please bear with us.... BEAR.

"Batty McFaddin" Kevin MacLeod ( 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


Van Valkenburgh, Blaire, Xiaoming Wang, and John Damuth. "Cope's rule, hypercarnivory, and extinction in North American canids." Science 306.5693 (2004): 101-104.

Figueirido, B., et al. "Shape at the cross‐roads: homoplasy and history in the evolution of the carnivoran skull towards herbivory." Journal of evolutionary biology 23.12 (2010): 2579-2594.

Direct download: Podcast_63_-_Meaty_The_Evolution_of_Hypercarniovry.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:00am EDT

The gang discusses two papers about the effects of the Permian Mass Extinction on the evolutionary and ecological patterns of brachiopods and bivalves. Also, Amanda finds her true calling, James indiscriminately throws shade, and Curt feels the pain of being the only person to vaguely remember what the papers were about.

 'Up goer five' summary:

The group talks about two types of animals with hard parts to hide in, one which is food and one which is not food. It used to be thought that the food animals were better than the not food animals, and that they had beaten them over a long time so that there were more of them today than the not food animal. The first paper shows that this is not true, and that both animals did as well as each other until they both had a very bad day, and that the food animal just got over this very bad day faster. The second paper is making sure that we have not got anything wrong by only looking at one way we can find both the food and not food animals.



Gould, Stephen Jay, and C. Bradford Calloway. "Clams and brachiopods-ships that pass in the night." Paleobiology (1980): 383-396.

Clapham, Matthew E. "Ecological consequences of the Guadalupian extinction and its role in the brachiopod-mollusk transition." Paleobiology 41.02 (2015): 266-279.