An increase in average complexity across life through time is not evidence that evolution is biased towards increased complexity. I illustrate this point with a simulation, following up on discussions with Amy Maxmen about her piece on the evolution of complexity in Nautilus.
The green urchin and the pencil urchin are alike in many ways, but their differences matter in a big way when it comes to their ecological impacts. We originally posted this episode at the New York Times, where you can read more.
Made by Sofia Castello y Tickell, a research assistant, and Robert Lamb, a graduate student. Both are in Jon Witman’s laboratory.The music is by Jahzzar.
Glaucus harvests the defenses of its prey and uses them against its own predators. We originally posted this episode at the New York Times, where you can read more.
Produced by Lauren Cheung. The Glaucus illustration is based on the beautiful photo by Taro Taylor. The music is “Thinking of you” by Gillicuddy.
Many organisms move with cilia. Most, like Stentor, are small. The ctenophores (also known as comb jellies) are an exception – they are the largest animals to use cilia for swimming. Ctenophore cilia refract light into beautiful pulses of color as they move. Sid Tamm recently published an excellent review of of ctenophore cilia (unfortunately the full text is only available to those with a journal subscription).
Filmed and edited by Stefan Siebert. Original music written and performed by Bryn Bliska. We originally posted this episode at the New York Times.
Nina Ruelle tells the story of Tyrian Purple, a dye created from the marine snail known as Bolinus brandaris. For more information, please see the article at the New York Times where we originally presented the piece.
This episode features the song “humm ok” by Gablé .
Shuyi Chiou’s animation explains the implications of the Central Limit Theorem. To learn more, please visit the original article where we presented this animation in the New York Times.
The song is Franz Danzi’s Wind Quintet Op 67 No 3 In E-Flat Major, 4 Allegretto, performed by the Soni Ventorum Wind Quintet. The narration is by Pathikrit Bhattacharyya. Further work by Ms. Chiou can be found at her site.
Alysse Austin, a student in Casey Dunn’s Invertebrate Zoology course at Brown University, describes sexual dimorphism in green spoonworm.
This is the first episode of CreatureCast to be distributed in partnership with the New York Times.
Special thanks to Rachel Kaplan and the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. Music is “Sneeuwland” by Oskar Schuster.
CreatureCast – PhyloTree (full resolution link) from Casey Dunn.
An introduction to PhyloTree, a browser for the Tree of Life (or at least a very rough approximation of the Tree of Life) available at dunnlab.org/phylotree .
This video demonstrates some of the features of PhyloTree. It then shows the early explosive discovery of mammal species (most major mammal groups were discovered early on), and then shows the slow and steady discovery of cnidarians (many cnidarians remain to be described). The tool can also be used to quickly find the first species that was described in a group. The first siphonophore to be described, for example, was Physalia physalis (the Portuguese man o’ war).
Music is “Butterfly” by Delicate Steve (delicatesteve.com/).
Hiding from danger in the deep sea is a very different game than hiding from danger on land. In the sea, not only does a creature have nothing to hide behind, it can’t even camouflage itself, because it’s environment is just clear water. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, many animals of the sea have evolved ways of being transparent.
Here is a semi-interactive video (with the option of a single, non-interactive video here) from CreatureCast alum Sophia Tintori, featuring tips from a handful of ocean-dwellers that each have drastically different approaches to being invisible.
Score by Amil Byleckie, video made by Sophia Tintori, with a big thanks to Sönke Johnsen. Funding provided by Duke University Provost & Council for the Arts and the Office of Graduate Education at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-Share Alike license.