A 9,500 year old burial in Cyprus represents some of the oldest known evidence of human/cat companionships anywhere in the world. But when did this close relationship between humans and cats start? And how did humans help cats take over the world?
People have been discovering the traces and remains of prehistoric creatures for thousands of years. And they’ve also probably been telling stories about fantastic beasts since language became a thing. So, is it possible that the monsters that populate our myths and legends were influenced by the fossil record?
Its discoverers named it Homo floresiensis, but it’s often called “the hobbit” for its short stature and oddly proportioned feet. And it’s been at the center of a major controversy in the field ever since. Was it its own species? Or was it really just one of us? Or, could it even have descended from a whole lineage of hominins that we don’t even know about?
Before the start of the Eocene Epoch about 56 million years ago--Antarctica was still joined to both Australia and South America. And it turns out that a lot of what we recognize about the southern hemisphere can be traced back to that time when Antarctica was green.
Just a few thousand years ago, the island of Madagascar was inhabited by giant lemurs. How did such a diverse group of primates evolve in the first place, and how did they help shape the unique environments of Madagascar? And how did they get winnowed down, leaving only their smaller relatives behind?
Paleontologists found a small theropod dinosaur skull right on top of a nest of eggs that were believed to belong to a plant-eating dinosaur. Instead of being the nest robbers that they were originally thought to be, raptors like this one would reveal themselves to actually be caring parents.
When pterosaurs first took flight, you could say that it marked the beginning of the end for the winged reptiles. Because, strangely enough, the power of flight -- and the changes that it led to -- may have ultimately led to their downfall.
Paleontologists have spent the better part of two decades debating whether Coelophysis ate its own kind. It turns out, the evidence that scientists have had to study in order to answer that question includes some of the strangest and grossest fossils that any expert would ever get to see.
The myth of the Missing Link--the idea that there must be a specimen that partly resembles an ape but also partly resembles a modern human--is persistent. But the reality is that there is no missing link in our lineage, because that’s not how evolution works.
In 1964, a paleontologist named John Ostrom unearthed some fascinating fossils from the mudstone of Montana. Its discovery set the stage for what’s known today as the Dinosaur Renaissance, a total re-thinking of what we thought we knew about dinosaurs.
Bats pretty much appear in the fossil record as recognizable, full-on, flying bats. And they show up on all of the continents, except Antarctica, around the same time. So where did bats come from? And which of the many weird features that bats have, showed up first?
Synapsids were the world’s first-ever terrestrial megafauna but the vast majority of these giants were doomed to extinction. However some lived on, keeping a low profile among the dinosaurs. And now our world is the way it is because of the time when the synapsids struck back.
Megaloceros was one of the largest members of the deer family ever to walk the Earth. The archaeological record is full of evidence that our ancestors lived alongside and interacted with these giant mammals for millennia. But what happened when they did interact, when humans met this megafauna?
The marine reptiles Ichthyosaurs arose after The Great Dying, which wiped out at least 90 percent of life in the oceans, changing the seas forever and triggering a new evolutionary arms race between predator and prey.
They have survived every catastrophe and every mass extinction event that nature has thrown at them. And by being the little, filter-feeding, water-cleaning creatures that they are, sponges may have saved the world.
We all belong to the only group of hominins on the planet today. But we weren’t always alone. 100,000 years ago, Eurasia was home to other hominin species, some of which we know our ancestors met, and spent some quality time with.
Over 600 million years ago, sheets of ice coated our planet on both land and sea. How did this happen? And most importantly for us, why did the planet eventually thaw again? The evidence for Snowball Earth is written on every continent today.
As a scientific concept, evolution was revolutionary when it was first introduced. With the help of all three of our hosts and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s new Deep Time Hall, we’ll try to explain how evolution actually works and how we came to understand it.
Despite the name, we don’t know where the so-called “hell pigs” belong in the mammalian family tree. They walked on hooves, like pigs do, but had longer legs, almost like deer. They had hunched backs, a bit like rhinos or bison. But as is often, if not always, the case, there is some evolutionary method to this anatomical madness.
Throughout the Pleistocene Epoch, the range of the woolly rhino grew and shrank in sync with global climate. So what caused the climate -- and the range of the woolly rhino -- to cycle back and forth between such extremes?