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How Chilis Got Spicy (and Why We Love the Burn)

Today, chilis are the most widely cultivated spice crop in the world - grown everywhere from their native home in the Americas to Europe, Africa, and Asia. But how and why did chilis evolve this weird, fiery trick in the first place? And why did we learn to love that spicy burn? Big thanks to Julio Lacerda (https://twitter.com/JulioTheArtist​​)...

How Humans Became (Mostly) Right-Handed

Thank you for The Great Courses Plus for Supporting PBS. To learn more and try The Great Course pulse click, http://ow.ly/m3ap30rzWfP. No other placental mammal that we know of prefers one side of the body so consistently, not even our closest primate relatives. But being right-handed may have deep evolutionary roots in our lineage. And yet, being...

How Worm Holes Ended Wormworld

Elongated tubes, flat ribbons, and other “worm-like” body plans were so varied and abundant that a part of the Ediacaran is sometimes known as Wormworld. But in the end, the ancient Wormworld was ended by the actions of its very own worms. Thanks to Franz Anthony (http://franzanth.com) for the incredible illustrations of Ediacaran life! Produced...

Our Bizarre, Possibly Venomous, Relative

Check out Bizarre Beasts' episode on venomous mammals! https://youtu.be/22qAEKXe8Lo This video contains images and video of snakes and spiders. It's possible Euchambersia possessed venom about 20 million years before the first lizards and over 150 million years before the first snakes evolved. We’ve teamed up Sarah Suta from Bizarre Beasts to...

The Genes We Lost Along the Way

Our DNA holds thousands of dead genes and we’ve only just begun to unravel their stories. But one thing is already clear: we’re not just defined by the genes that we’ve gained over the course of our evolution, but also by the genes that we’ve lost along the way. Thanks to these illustrators for their wonderful hominin illustrations featured throughout...

The Return of Giant Skin-Shell Sea Turtles

The biggest turtle ever described wasn’t an ancestor of today’s leatherback turtles or any other living sea turtles. But it looks like there are some things about being a giant, skin-shelled sea turtle that just work, no matter where, or when, you lived. Thanks to Ceri Thomas (https://nixillustration.com/), Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com/),...

When We First Talked

The evolution of our ability to speak is its own epic saga and it’s worth pausing to appreciate that. It’s taken several million years to get to this moment where we can tell you about how it took several million years for us to get here. Thanks to these illustrators for their wonderful illustrations featured throughout this episode! Julio Lacerda:...

The Pandemic That Lasted 15 Million Years

Our DNA holds evidence of a huge, ancient pandemic, one that touched many different species, spanned the globe, and lasted for more than 15 million years. The paper we discuss throughout the episode: Diehl, W., Patel, N., Halm, K. and Johnson, W., 2016. Tracking interspecies transmission and long-term evolution of an ancient retrovirus using the...

The Reign of the Hell Ants

This ancient species had the same six legs and segmented body that we’d recognize from an ant today. But it also had a huge, scythe-like jaw and a horn coming out of its head. This bizarre predator belonged to a group known as “hell ants.” But they’re gone now, and we’re still trying to figure out why. Please see the pinned comment for a disclaimer...

What Happened to the World's Biggest Beaver?

Check out Animal Wonders and Huckleberry! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ONb2FVNe-7o&list=PL2Ol2gat902eYrXakcgw0FSS86fF0Ix6W&index=1 It’s important to us that you understand how big this beaver was. Just like modern beavers, it was semiaquatic -- it lived both on the land and in the water. The difference is that today’s beavers do a pretty...

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