Nerd Nite 26: Nerd of the Living Dead

On April 9th come join us for presentations on burial practices, extinction, and parasites. Doors open at Pachamama’s Alton Ballroom at 7 pm and presentations start at 8 pm. $1 cover.

26

“Extinction is Not Forever—Repeated Evolution is as easy as A-B-C” by Terry Meehan

I study old, dead things, namely, fossil mammals of North America. Piles of old bones do manage to speak loudly, though often it’s the same ol’ song—life is predictable. Sabertooths (which have fangs like this) evolved and went extinct like clockwork every 7.2 million years. The first sabertooths of 50 million years ago were not cats, but primitive mammals called creodonts. These were replaced by nimravids—a cat-like family, but we don’t see true cats (felids) until they replaced another cat-like family, barbourofelids about 7 million years ago. Large scale evolution is a game of replacement—it starts over again and again, often rolling the dice in the same sequence. We had giraffes in North America? Nope, but giraffe-like camels? Yes; this adaptive type evolved, went extinct, and re-evolved. Then rinse & repeat. Hyena-like carnivores same story. Hippo-like herbivores ditto. This is a most striking biological pattern. What’s the driving mechanism? (Will it drive you up a wall? Drive you to the end? I thought only people and penguins could drive…)

Dr TJ Meehan, vertebrate paleontologist, professor at Rockhurst University. Graduated from KU twice—Master’s in Geology & PhD in Biology. Published a few papers on this topic & currently working on a book. Would prefer to be paid to play bridge, ultimate Frisbee, & scuba diving.

“How to be a Great Host: Toxoplasma Gondii and You” by Lindsey Givens

Lindsey is more of a book nerd (she did actually get grounded from reading as a child), but her work in scientific publishing has opened whole new nerdy doors. Her other great passions are travel (she’d like to go to a country for every letter of the alphabet) and bubble baths

“Bring Out Your Dead: the cozy relationship between living and dead in 7000 BCE Çatalhöyük (present-day Turkey)” by Kelly Watt

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