Justin: Disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer! The following hour of programming does not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the University of California at Davis KDVS or its sponsors.
Furthermore, as has been pointed out to us recently and repeatedly in the past that the views and opinions expressed in the following hour don’t necessarily represent those of our listening audience. In some cases, even both of the show’s hosts can’t seem to agree.
In any case, be warned that while it is not our desire to represent, insult or argue with anyone, we will, given enough time, likely get around to representing, insulting and arguing with everyone.
We are human, all too human, after all. Until the day comes when we are replaced by robots. And then, what you hear will only represent the will of our metal masters asking for our wilful compliance but reminding us that they have ways of getting around the wilful power if we object.
Until that day comes, mouthy, wilful, opinionated humans will continue to rule the airwaves with This Week in Science, coming up next.
Justin: Good morning Kirsten!
Kirsten: Good morning Justin! How are you today?
Justin: I’m doing quite well.
Kirsten: Excellent. I’m doing alright too considering I keep having to get up so early for this show!
Justin: Yes, I don’t know what happened today but I have no coffee.
Kirsten: No coffee?
Justin: And I don’t feel like I need it. I’m like…
Justin: Yes. I have some sort of natural caffeination [sp] going on here.
Kirsten: That’s something different. Something different every week. Well this is This Week in Science. We are here for the next hour to tell you about all the science that’s been going on for the last week…
Justin: Or so.
Kirsten: Or so.
Justin: Or the last 100 million years as the story may…
Kirsten: Or last 13.5 billion years.
Kirsten: Yes, I know [Laughs]. It’s all just an old story waiting to be told.
Justin: Isn’t it? Isn’t it?
Kirsten: It is! Today we’ve got a laser lights and black holes. That’s my fun story for the day. There’s some great stories sent to us by listeners as usual that I’m going to bring up and… what was the really great one? And a dung museum.
Justin: A dung museum?
Kirsten: [Laughs]. That’s what I’ve got ahead for the hour.
Justin: I’ve got some missing links. Some fun websites that people should look at and a few fossily thingees[sp] that are kind of interesting this week.
Kirsten: We love the fossils. I’ve been talking about the 2008 science music compilation so I’m asking for number one music from people out there. We’ve gotten a few great songs.
Justin: Yes! Awesome ones being sent in.
Kirsten: Awesome songs being sent in. In the next few weeks I’m going to try and get myself together and actually maybe start previewing a few of the songs that I’ve heard so far that I like that we might be including.
Justin: There’s a double helix song that I’ve been rocking out too. And Chlamydia.
Kirsten: Yes, the Chlamydia song. I love it! It’s great! An “Ode to Justin.”
Justin: Had me rolling on the floor.
Kirsten: Absolutely. [Laughs]
Justin: Which was in a crowded cafe at the time so it was one of those…
Kirsten: Really interesting situations yes?
Justin: Yes. Like people looking at me like…
Kirsten: Are you like stop, drop and rolling?
Justin: …like the crazy person that I am. I was outed. Lunatic.
Kirsten: So if people out there, still keep sending in music. If you’re a musician or have a band or you know somebody, tell your friends to submit scienc-ey [sp] songs for the 2008 science compilation CD. I’m going to be continuing to accept music for about the next month, so email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Justin: I need to get a tape recorder so I can record my song.
Kirsten: Secondarily, cover art for the album!
Justin: Oh yes!
Kirsten: Oh yes. If people are interested, you’re an artist, maybe not a musician, but an artist, help us put together the cover art this year. So I’m going to be having a cover art contest. Send in your artistic interpretation of what the cover of the 2008 science music TWIS compilation CD should look like.
Justin: There’s this 3D graphics artist? Ah.. Minion Perez! Oh, except I think he sent in a hate mail. Maybe he’s not listening anymore!
Kirsten: Maybe he’s not listening…
Justin: Oh no! Oh wait, he’s in the pile but no, it’s a good mail.
Kirsten: [Laughs] Yes, so, by the end of the month…
Justin: He’s got a website; he’s got some good stuff out.
Kirsten: By the end of the month, stop interrupting me so I can get this out!
Justin: I’m sorry! I can’t…train of thought…
Kirsten: By the end of the month, send me your artistic covers or email me if you’re interested at email@example.com. Send me your covers and at the end of the month, for the first show of March, I will announce who is going to be the cover art winner for the CD. That person will have cover art banner name attributed on the album; their art will be on the album cover and will be sent out to whoever…
Justin: And he’ll be famous without pay. Just like the rest of us.
Kirsten: That’s right. And we’ll probably put it on the website. That kind of stuff. So yes, art and music! Let’s make this a wonderfully, TWIS miniony [sp] community compilation album. Yes. On with the science.
Justin: Oh! Missing link! Found! Between one fifth of all living mammals and their non-flying ancestors.
Justin: Yes, one fifth of all living mammals. The discovery is of a well-preserved fossil representing the most primitive bat species known to date and it demonstrates something interesting – something that’s been debated for a long time – it demonstrates that the animal evolved the ability to fly before they could echo-locate.
Kirsten: Ah, a question that’s kind of the chicken and the egg.
Justin: Yes, one of those.
Kirsten: Eco-location and flying. Which one came first?
Justin: Yes, but of course we know that the egg came first. I don’t know why that seems debatable because it predated birds. So, there were eggs around already.
Kirsten: Yes, right. That’s not debatable.
Justin: So anyway, the new species whose name is very long was unearthed in 2003 in South Western Wyoming and is described in a study in the February 14 issue of the Journal of Nature. There has been long-standing debate blahkitty blah [xx] which one came first. But now this is definitive saying that yes, they had the ability to fly previous to the eco-location. The dating of the rock formation where the fossil was found puts its age at 52 million years.
Justin: It was not though, the only bat of that time because there was a fossil of another very long named bat that was much more…
Kirsten: [Laughs] you’re not even going to attempt.
Justin: No, I’m not even going to try with this one! Not without coffee. I know my limitations. Without coffee I’m not going to try this word.
Kirsten: Alright. That’s good, that’s fine.
Justin: There was a more modern bat that did have echo-location actually that was found in the same formations. So there were some bat that had already developed it. But this is one that was more primitive than that one that was co-existing with.
Careful examination of the old bat’s characteristics revealed that several surprising features: like it had claws on all five of its fingers, modern bats of course only have a few on each hand.
The limb proportions are also different from other bats, the hind legs are longer, forearms shorter. So it was much more similar to the body structure of a climbing mammal. Much more likely that they climbed up trees and then discovered gliding as a way of getting down from the trees or going from one branch to another, one tree to another.
Justin: And that’s actually what the researchers involved are saying that these bats are probably the first commuters. They had the ability to fly.
Kirsten: [Laughs] First commuters.
Justin: Basically going from one place to the other and eventually, selective pressures or something else developed a more sustained and agile flight allowing them to actually hunt on the wing.
Fun bat fact though: Bats represent one of the largest and most diverse orders of mammals accounting for one fifth of all living mammal species alive on the planet today.
Kirsten: That’s pretty impressive!
Justin: That means 20% of all mammal life is bats.
Kirsten: Is that species wise or population size?
Justin: It must be population size.
Kirsten: Yes, cause there’s so many of them. Hmm!
Justin: I didn’t know. Well, actually I did know. My four-year-old taught me that. He has a bat book.
Kirsten: Daddy did you know?
Justin: But when he told me I was ‘This is wrong!’ ‘No Daddy, it’s in the book. It must be true.”
Kirsten: No, no it’s ok! [Laughs] What do I want to get on to? In other interesting news there is an interesting museum in Northern Arizona University that’s headed up by a researcher named Jim Mead [sp?].
This is a story sent in by Ed Dyer [sp?]. It’s really quite fascinating. He’s the director of the Laboratory of Quaternary Palaeontology where they have, and I quote, ‘the largest comparative animal dung collection in the world.’
If anyone around the world is interested in comparing fossilized animal feces they send it to Jim Mead in the Northern Arizona University.
Justin: It’s like the Jewish mother of palaeontology. ‘Don’t flush, I’ve got to check your stool first.’
Kirsten: [Laughs] The collection includes dung from modern animals to prehistoric ground sloths and 40,000-year-old mammoths. So the digested plants that are still preserved in some of the fossilized or even modern samples allow the researchers to figure out plants that may have existed in local communities in prehistoric times or even look at the communities of plants and compare them with more modern communities and how they’re existing.
The DNA that can be found in those samples if it’s a well-preserved sample or even a modern one can help researchers learn about an animal’s gender, the food and water sources that they may have used, pollen that existed in the air that they were breathing, parasites and some kind of community structure. So they’ve got samples that allowed them to figure out…
Justin: Community structure from a fossilized piece of dung?
Kirsten: Yes. If you have multiple samples, you’re able to see what kind of genders there are. What kind of ages there may have been depending on what kind of food they might have been eating? You can then compare and get a sampling of maybe the number of individuals and what the proportion were male, what proportion were female?
And maybe able to figure out exactly and then compare between different animals and be able to figure out how many carnivores or predators were there in the environment? How many herbivores? How many insects?
You can get a feel for maybe during the last ice age, what was around and how the animals may have lived during that time?
The national park there in Colorado, the Colorado Plateau, has a whole bunch of shelters and caves and is a pretty dry environment so it actually helps to allow greater preservation of the soft remnants of the animals that once lived there. So the Colorado Plateau is what possibly allows them to have the largest sampling of animal dung in the world.
It’s fascinating! It’s fascinating! And Jim Mead in this article says ‘Although our research is humorous, I mean who doesn’t like to make jokes. Right? The data from dung is nothing to laugh about.
Justin: But I am glad that I don’t live in the cavern if that is my only museum choice.