Megafauna

Can you clone a mammoth and have it build a pyramid? Baz Edmeades of megafauna.com joins us to talk about prehistoric elephants, hell pigs, terror birds, giant ground sloths, marsupial lions, hippopotamus wombats, moas, sabretooth cats, stellar sea cows and more!

Music: “Downtown (in the Cenozoic)” by The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets

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21 Responses

  1. Love your show and normally I love your chemistry, but on this episode.. Baz was so fascinating and his voice so incredible that I kind of resented every moment you guys were talking instead of him. After listening to the show I immediately went to his website and was disappointed that there wasn’t an audiobook version of his book. OK it’s a man crush but LISTEN TO THAT GUY’S VOICE! Keep up the good work.

    1. Agreed. Finished this up on a long drive. What a magnificent voice. Kept me calm while the madmen in SUV’s did their level best to murder me.

    1. I believe the “50 cm” is referring to the length of the black line underneath, to give a scale.

  2. Great podcast! Very humorous but educational look into the historic truths of our ecological impact.. the only way to really develop a new ethic for managing the ecology!

  3. Your guest speaker (and you guys, with your constant jokes about climate change) doesn’t treat the issue of climate seriously enough. It feels like one of those in-jokes at school where everyone pretends to know the ‘truth’ and you feel you’re not part of the inner circle so you can’t argue against it, but you don’t feel ok about agreeing with the whole direction of the argument either. I worry that you’re offering the opinions of a self-confessed lawyer here versus the expertise of scientists. It’s like people who now say that it is a proven fact that global warming is caused by mankind, but meanwhile we’re long overdue for a regular ice age anyway and you know that before the freeze there is always a temperature spike.

    1. The continuous comments about climate change refer to the academic assessment of what caused Pleistocene die-offs. The joke is referring to this “official” explanation of these die-offs, while seemingly ignoring the correlation of human expansion into each continent a relatively short time prior to these population reductions. See the book for specifics and evidence presented.

      BTW, I would have to say that Baz is a pretty balanced guy when it comes to weighing and presenting the data. The fact that his law background helps him compile and evaluate evidence around a field that is a life-long passion is a strength, not a weakness, in my opinion.

      Dry Sarcasm™: The Baz Edmeades touch.

  4. I really enjoyed the depth of Baz’s knowledge and his enthusiasm in talking about the megafauna. It was sometimes difficult to figure out how much you guys really knew or understood and how much you were just horsing around for entertainment purposes but every time he spoke and every joke he participated on just shouted out to me that he should be speaking about this stuff at big museums and conferences.

  5. Excellent episode, but… fuck, that song is good. I delayed listening to the rest of the show because I kept going back to the song.

    Down here in Brazil we still have a representative of megafauna, the “giant guinea pig”, capybara. They are awesome animals and some are even pets up north, much like some people keep pigs as pets.
    They are also delicious, I’ve been told.

  6. Excellent episode guys, and please bring Baz back for part 2, or “When ancient megafauna go rogue!” 🙂

    One aspect of what was going on in prehistory that you didn’t give much time to was the break up of the land masses. Even 500mya (not that long after the first fossils of complex life appear) all the landmasses were still stuck together as Pangea, which split into Laurasia to the North (ish) and Gondwana to the South (ish), and then they split further from there and ran into each other again (eg the Himalayas — ooh, mountain climbing could make for an interesting episode). The big thing, of course, in relation to this ep is what it did to the ecosystems. Ratites were already widely distributed when the break ups occurred, so you end up with a major Ratite on most of the landmasses (emus, ostriches, moas, elephant birds, etc). For those families (not the right word, I’m sure) that weren’t widely distributed you can see convergent evolution occurring, where there’s a niche of some sort, and some random animal evolves to fill it (eg marsupial lions and hippos in Australia, compared to non-marsupial ones in Africa).

    Anyway, I thought I’d recommend Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale to you. It covers all of the animal kingdom rather than just megafauna, but it does a really good job of tracing animals from prehistory out to wherever they live now (or where their fossils are), taking not account the old landmasses. Really interesting stuff. It’s a pretty big read, but I found a good audiobook (abridged, I suspect) read by Richard Dawkins himself along with his wife, Lalla Ward (also formerly Romana of Tom Baker’s Dr Who, but you guys would know that — other than Kevin).

  7. I should have left this weeks ago, but I have to day that this really was an exceptional episode and Baz was an absolutely fantastic guest who really made the episode. I went on to read the book and he speaks as well as he writes.

    1. When’s Part II with Baz? You could do an entire session on the issue of fire,for example. ‘Quest for Fire’ barely scrapes the surface whereas Baz’s chapter on fire is riveting.

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