Palaeo After Dark

A group of fresh faced scientists have biweekly informal discussions about evolutionary biology and palaeontology... over beer.

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Podcast 168 - Alligator Teeth and Too Small Cats


The gang discusses two papers that look at the diets of past and present crocodylomorphs using patterns in teeth shape and enamel. It turns out, past relatives of crocodiles were likely a lot more experimental in the types of feeding strategies they implemented than we might expect. Meanwhile, Curt comes up with a great name for a Lamsdell lab bowling league, Amanda loves possums, and James has some very strong opinions about the “Cats” trailer.   Up-Goer Five (Curt Edition): The friends talk about two papers that look at the teeth of these big angry animals that hide and eat a lot of animals. It turns out that lots of these big angry animals are sons and daughters of older big angry animals which may have ate other things besides animals. These two papers look at the teeth of the living big angry animals and the older big angry animals to see what we can learn about what they may have ate. The first paper looks at the hardest bits that cover the teeth. In living big angry animals, they find that the teeth furthest back in the mouth have more hard parts covering them than the teeth near the front. This makes sense, because these teeth in the back hold on to animals and so need to be more covered. What they also find is that these big angry animals have way less hard parts covering their teeth than other other animals which are warm, but who do not grow new teeth every time they lose one. The hard parts are the same as some other big angry animals from the past, though some of the big angry animals that might have ate more than just animals have the parts where their teeth are hard being different. The second paper looks at the ways the teeth look. There is a number that can be looked at which shows if the teeth are simple or if they are very different. Simple teeth usually means that the animal eats other animals. But the more different the teeth are, the more the animal may eat both animals and not animals, or just not eat animals at all. They use this number to study what past big angry animals would eat. What they find is that past big angry animals probably ate way more different things than we see today. While most big angry animals today eat only animals, it seems that not eating animals at all, or eating both animals and not animals, happened way more often in these past big angry animals. It means that maybe these big angry animals have been a lot more different in the past, and our living big angry animals are maybe more "weird" than we think.   References:  Sellers, K. C., A. B. Schmiegelow, and C. M. Holliday. "The significance of enamel thickness in the teeth of Alligator mississippiensis and its diversity among crocodyliforms." Journal of Zoology.   Melstrom, Keegan M., and Randall B. Irmis. "Repeated Evolution of Herbivorous Crocodyliforms during the Age of Dinosaurs." Current Biology (2019). 


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 04 August 2019  1h1m