About This Show
Past Time is a podcast that explores how we know what we know about the past. There's a special focus on the fossil record - it is hosted by two paleontologists - but delving into the story of the past isn't limited to dry bones. Today's paleontologists use techniques drawn from other sciences including Physics, Chemistry, Geology, and Biology to figure out what extinct animals were like and how they lived.
Whether you are just starting to learn about the amazing animals that have called this planet home, or you have been fascinated by fossils for a long time, we hope you will join us as we dig into past times.
Keywords: Paleontology, Dinosaurs, Mammals, Reptiles, Birds, Animals, Fossils, Extinction.
Most Recent Episode
A Food Chain in a Fossil: A snake skeleton with its prey still inside!
The relationship between predator and prey is a primal one, and one that fires the curiosity of many fossil fans. We love paintings of Tyrannosaurus battling Triceratops or saber-toothed cats leaping onto the backs of ground sloths. And we can be pretty sure that those interactions happened based on TRACE FOSSILS, like tooth marks in Triceratops bones that match closely with tyrannosaur teeth. However, it’s very rare to run across fossils that preserve an animal’s meal still in its rib cage. It’s far rarer for that meal to still have IT’S last meal in IT’S STOMACH!
But that’s just the kind of fossil I talk about on Past Time today: a snake skeleton with a lizard in its stomach region, and that lizard with a partial insect still inside! I couldn’t believe the pictures when I saw them, but paleontologists Krister Smith and Augustín Scanferla have a slam-dunk case that the boa-like snake Palaeopython ate a basilisk lizard Geiseltaliellus. And, before being eaten, that lizard ate a tiny insect. That’s a whole lot of ecosystem preserved in a single fossil!
The original fossil with all three links in the food chain illustrated.
Hailing from the Messel Pit fossil site in Germany, this nearly complete snake skeleton suggests that Palaeopython ate its prey in very much the same way as modern snakes. Spectacular fossils like this can reveal amazing truths about ancient ecosystems and just how d