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Welcome to Interesting If True, the podcast that digs a little deeper into… dirt. It’s dirt, right? That’s where de’m bones, de’m … manamal?.. bones, live!
I'm your host this week, Aaron, and with me are Shea,
I'm Shea, and this week I learned that a hot dog is just pureed meat that has been encased in animals intestines so if you eat a hot dog you are pureeing meat and then encasing it in intestines… you become a hotdog if you eat a hotdog.
And with us — our first guest — the far-too-popular-to-hang-out-with-us Aron Ra!
I'm Aron, and …
This Week’s Beer
In honor of our guest, we’ve brought two beers from a local brewery. Our first, the Scottish Ale - Snowy Range Scottish Ale, won a Silver 2022 U.S. Open Beer Championship in Oxford, Ohio. The other… was not a winner, we grabbed the wrong one. Still, decent dark beer.
Shea’s got us some tasters, let’s rate a few beers!
This first beer is a cheer to our common listener Ross! He put us in touch initially when Aron mentioned on his show that he’d be through Wyoming. He also helped us do some prep, thanks for the suggestions!
Scottish Ale - Bond’s Brewing
Beer Geek Stats
Bond's Brewing Company
Style: Scottish Ale
- ABV: 6%
- Score: Needs more ratings
- Avg: 3.77% Percent of what? Who knows…
- Aaron: 6
- Shea: 4
- Aron: 5
- Lilandra Ra, SJ (Mrs. Ra): 5
- Audience: 6 copper tastes a bit
Astute listeners will have noticed from the introduction and beer reviews, that the non-Shea voice joining us this week is not one of the other hosts, this week-ish we’re pleased to be joined this week-ish by…
You’ve probably heard of his secular activism, you may have read his books, and you should be imagining a friendly Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, it’s Aron Ra!
Aron, welcome to the show!
Thanks for stopping by on your way to exhume the Flinston’s!
Aron is joining Dr. Benjamin Burger, Ph.D., and a bunch of sciencers at a dig site in Wyoming. If you want to learn more about the what and why of that trip visit Aron’s video Animals of the America Eocene, linked in the show notes.
One of the first myths you dispel about fossils is that they’re not always dinosaur-bits, one amberized mosquito away from eating Chris Pratt. And, so with the recognition that the Eocene area is — currently, even — the era of mammals, not dinosaurs… he’s a kind of dinosaur quiz based on magic nonsense and somehow-ok-for-kids animal fighting. Shea, take it away!
Our lovely guest, Aaron Ra is well known in the Atheist spheres but also known in the world of paleontology. Now I doubt there is much I can quiz this Aaron on in either of these subjects that would give Normal Aaron a snowball's chance in hell of winning so I decided to take the knowledge of both and combine their knowledge into a quiz they both should do terrible on.
Pokemon turned 26 this year back in February and I know my Aaron was plenty nerdy enough to get into it. I had the original 151 memorized and traded most of the cards throughout my middle school career, I even had a holographic Snorlax! Hell yeah. Now Mr. Ra, on the other hand, may have some pokemon knowledge but I know he has a wealth of knowledge on fossils and the life that came before.
In the venn diagram of Pokemon and Paleontology, there is an amazing overlap of Pokemon Fossils. In the current stage of the game, there are currently 15 Pokemon fossils that can all be found and brought back to life in the 24 various games. I have found out that most if not all of the fossils are based on prehistoric life that did exist here on planet earth. And most of the Pokemon look very similar to their real-world counterparts I guess with a creative flair. Today I have crafted a quiz for our illustrious guest and our favorite guest about the pokemon fossils that litter the video game world.
I’m going to do this quiz a bit differently this time to help even the playing field. For Mr. Ra, I will give and describe a Pokemon with a bit of a back story and he will attempt to guess the real-world creature they are based on. As for my buddy Aaron I will give him the creature and see if he can figure out what Pokemon was created from it.
Old Shrimp Pokémon, or Steve for short, is the Anorith from generation 3. Just like their real-world counterpart, these Pokémon are aquatic and can swim with their wing-like appendages on the sides of their bodies. The twin appendages near the front end of its head that were likely used to catch prey are also mentioned in the games. While the “evolved” form of Armaldo’s bipedal stance and habitation of land is likely the designer’s artistic license. The real-world creature this was based on was a Cambrian predator with a very similar appearance. What was the Old Shrimp based on?
Anomalocaris (ah-NOM-ah-LAH-kariss), from the Greek meaning “unusual shrimp”, was a major predator of those ancient seas. Fossils from the Cambrian in the Burgess Shale in Canada, and formations in China, Greenland, Australia, and Utah show that this large, ancient shrimp was widespread during this period.
We all know that Aaron loves creepy crawlies so I looked for a scary fossil and found the Sea Scorpion or Eurypterids. During the Paleozoic age in Earth’s history, between 541 million and 252 million years ago, arthropods were exploring the extremes of size, from tiny to huge.
Some Paleozoic arthropods represent the largest animals on Earth at the time. If you were to take a swim in the Paleozoic oceans, you may have been fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to find one of the most fearsome of these extinct arthropods: the sea scorpion. They could grow up to 8 feet long and were likely agile swimmers would have used their large front limbs, armed with claws, to grab their prey, which they would then crush between the teeth-like structures on their legs. With its tough exoskeleton and deadly arms, it's easy to see where the inspiration for what pokemon came from.
Its unevolved form, Kabuto, is inspired by prehistoric trilobites but the evolved Kabutops is very similar to the Sea Scorpion.
Kabutops is a bipedal prehistoric arthropod Pokémon with a skeletal build. It has a flat, half-circular head with a point on each side and two small eyes on the front. It is mostly brown, except for its light gray chest and abdomen. There is a ridge down its back with three flat spines on either side and it has a flat, pointed tail. Instead of hands, its forearms have large, sharp, gray scythes. Its thin legs are brown and lead to small feet with two large gray claws.
Before it went extinct, Kabutops was in the process of evolving into a land dweller as evident by changes in its gills and legs. This change is thought to be due to its prey moving onto land as well. In its ocean home, Kabutops could tuck up its limbs to help it swim extremely fast, up to roughly 29 knots. It used its sharp scythes to slice enemies and drink their internal fluids. Any leftovers left behind by Kabutops are consumed by other Pokémon. It is unknown what led to Kabutops's extinction.
Lileep is a somewhat plantlike Pokémon with eight dark-tipped, pink petal-like tentacles protruding from an opening on top of its head. Inside the pitch-black opening are two glowing, yellow eyes. The remainder of its head is purple with yellow eyespots resembling targets. The head is connected to the body through a yellow stem. The body itself is purple and semi-spherical. Four stubby roots anchor this Pokémon firmly to the rocks of its home on the seafloor.
In ancient times, it lived in warm seas. It waves its tentacles around to disguise itself as seaweed to attract prey, which is swallowed whole after being entangled. Lileep has been extinct for 100 million years, but specimens can be revived from Root Fossils.
The real-world counterpart is also what I would call a plant-like creature that was related to starfish and sea urchins, but do you know what it is?
They are members of the Echinodermata phylum, and they are related to starfish and sea urchins. Most crinoids, like sea lilies, were abundant millions of years ago, and they are still around today. Sea lilies are not flowers or plants, but they resemble lily flowers.
This is Archelon the largest turtle ever to have been documented. The dude is huge, with the biggest specimen measuring 16 ft from head to tail and 4,900 lb in body mass. Archelon is usually envisioned as being very similar to the leatherback turtle, and likely had a similar preference for eating jellyfish and cephalopods. The horned beak of the mouth which had a clear overbite would have been very effective at snipping soft-bodied animals like these into bite-sized portions that could be swallowed. Another similarity between these two turtles is that neither one has a solid shell. Instead, a series of bony struts, that in Archelon are the ribs, create a framework of bone that an outer and relatively thin carapace sits on top of.
This Pokemon lived in the ancient oceans from about 100 million years ago. It now exists in the present thanks to being revived from the covered fossil.
Tirtouga or Carracosta
Tirtouga is a reptilian Pokémon resembling a baby leatherback sea turtle. Its body is blue with black spots on the edges of its flippers. Its black shell has six circular indentations in it. Its upper beak and parts of its face are black and together resemble a mask. It has a light blue patch underneath its eyes.
Tirtouga's shell is very tough, and it can dive down to depths of as much as 1,000 meters. Tirtouga was known to actively hunt for prey to the extent that it would go on land to reach them. Tirtouga lived in the ancient oceans from about 100 million years ago. It now exists in the present thanks to being revived from fossils. Tirtouga is believed to be the ancestor of most turtle Pokémon.
Archeops is a large, avian Pokémon that bears traits of both birds and reptiles. Its featherless, scaly snake-like head is red with a green stripe running along the top. Its mouth is filled with sharp teeth. Its eyes are white with black pupils and no irises. Its body is covered with frayed-looking, yellow and blue feathers designed for flight on its arms and legs enabling all four of its limbs to act as wings. All of these "wings" bear sharp claws. It has a ring of smaller green feathers on the ankles. Its tail is completely red and featherless except for a fan of blue feathers at the end. Also, like its real-world creature, it has fully-movable vertebrae in its tail.
It is capable of flying, but is more adept at running, taking a running start to take flight with its weak wing muscles. To achieve flight, Archeops must run nearly 25 mph (40 km/h) as it builds up speed over a course that is 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) long. Archeops can hunt more efficiently when on the ground. Archeops is known to be intelligent, hunting for its prey in packs. One Archeops first corners the prey before another swoops down on it. It can outrun even an automobile. It has the intelligence to work with its partners to catch prey. Archeops are extinct but can be revived via the plume fossils.
Paleontologists view Archaeopteryx as a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and modern birds. With its blend of avian and reptilian features, it was long viewed as the earliest known bird. Discovered in 1860 in Germany, it's sometimes referred to as Urvogel, the German word for "original bird" or "first bird." Recent discoveries, however, have displaced Archaeopteryx from its lofty title.
Interestingly, the Archaeopteryx specimens found thus far lack any feathering on the upper neck and head, which may be a result of the preservation process.
Based on its wings and feathers, scientists believe Archaeopteryx likely had some aerodynamic abilities.
Ranging from the size of a sparrow to the size of an airplane, the pterosaurs (Greek for "wing lizards") ruled the skies in the Jurassic and Cretaceous and included the largest vertebrate ever known to fly: the late Cretaceous Quetzalcoatlus. The appearance of flight in pterosaurs was separate from the evolution of flight in birds and bats; pterosaurs are not closely related to either birds or bats and thus provide a classic example of convergent evolution.
In the world of Pokemon, this was one of the first fossils you could resurrect, specifically old amber.
Aerodactyl is a reptilian, bipedal prehistoric Pokémon that resembles a pterosaur with several draconic features. It has small sharply pointed ears, narrow dark green eyes, a ridged snout, a gaping mouth, and a strong lower jaw full of serrated fangs. Its body is covered in light blue-gray skin and it has large, violet membranous wings. The clawed hands at the end of each wing allow it to grasp objects. There is a hump-like ridge with a spike on its back, and it has a strong tail with an arrow-shaped tip. Its talon-like feet have two toes in front and one in the back and are capable of scooping up and tightly clutching its prey in flight.
Relicanth is a Pokémon covered with hard, brown scales that are similar to craggy rocks. Its tan head has protruding cheekbones, which are smaller on a female. A triangular spike protrudes from the back of its head. Tan patches cover its body and there is a red spot located on both sides. It possesses two pairs of pectoral fins, which it uses to push itself along the sea bottom. Additionally, it has dorsal and pelvic fins near its tail. Its tail fin has a wavy outline.
The composition of its scales, along with its fatty body and oil-filled swim bladders, allow it to withstand the intense pressure of the ocean depths. Relicanth once had teeth, but they have long since atrophied; as such, Relicanth is a filter feeder, feeding on microscopic organisms that it sucks up with its toothless mouth. It has remained unchanged for 100 million years and stays as such because it is already a perfect life form. This is one of our Pokemon that wasn’t found in a fossil because it never went extinct… it just kept trucking.
The primitive-looking coelacanth (SEEL-uh-kanth) was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. But its discovery in 1938 by a South African museum curator on a local fishing trawler fascinated the world and ignited a debate about how this bizarre lobe-finned fish fits into the evolution of land animals.
The most striking feature of this "living fossil" is its paired lobe fins that extend away from its body-like legs and move in an alternating pattern, like a trotting horse. Other unique characteristics include a hinged joint in the skull which allows the fish to widen its mouth for large prey; an oil-filled tube, called a notochord, which serves as a backbone; thick scales common only to extinct fish; and an electrosensory rostral organ in its snout likely used to detect prey. This is truly a living fossil!
This is an Amargasaurus, a sauropod from the Early Cretaceous period found in what is now Argentina. This dinosaur had a double row of spines along its back which may have supported a twin ‘sail’ of skin. Though some pictures show them as defensive spikes. The spines on its neck vertebrae were incredibly long. The smaller sauropod could reach 33 feet in length. It would have been a quadrupedal herbivore with a long, low skull on the end of a long neck.
Actually in a study done this year scientists looked at everything from the structure to the microanatomy of the bones. One of the key things to immediately come out of this study was there was no evidence of keratinous covering for these neural spines. So no skin sails. Even more, telling was evidence for the presence of Sharpey's fibers connecting to the spines so that a whole system of interspinous ligaments may have connected the spines. These ligaments also seem to have gone all the way to the ends of the neural spines. What this all means is that the spines of Amargasaurus probably didn’t stand proud of the body, and in all likelihood supported a soft tissue growth that rose from the back of the neck and down towards the body. What this means is lost on me but from what I could glean it has something to do with breathing maybe… I dunno. Anyway what Rock and Ice type Pokemon is based on the Amargasaurus?
Amaura and Aurorus
Aurorus is a quadrupedal, dinosaurian Pokémon that resembles a sauropod. It is primarily blue with a light blue underside. It has bright blue eyes, a long neck, and a long, tapering tail with a teardrop-shaped tip. On its head is a V-shaped white marking with a single, light blue crystal in the center. Two large, flowing sails extend from the top of its head and run down the length of its neck. The sails are pale whitish-yellow at the base and fade into a pale bluish-purple at the edges. Running the length of its body on either side is a line of small ice crystals. There are three clawed toes on its hind legs, but one large nail and a single claw on its forelegs.
Aurorus is usually quiet and kind but can create ice walls or encase enemies in ice when enraged. The crystals on its body produce freezing air as cold as -240 degrees Fahrenheit. One Aurorus was discovered frozen in a glacier as it looked a long time ago. It is said that when Aurorus howls, several auroras will then appear in the sky. This guy is created when you bring the Sail Fossil back to life.
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But Is It True?
So, you’re a knower of old things. And an arguer of people who assert the Earth isn’t.
I found some bullshit bones, and I’d love your take on them…
Fake Fossils For Fun!
I’m calling this segment “Fake Fossil Fun” because alliteration is the bare minimum you expect from me, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to leap over that bar… might spill my beer.
So, scraping the bottom of the Eocene barrel I found a number of fantastical fossil foragers who are confident they’re gonna blow. Your. Mind.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to rehash the Cardiff Giant. If you want that fantastic tale you’ll want to revisit episode 9: Stubs, the soapy Giant!
First, making its rounds on the poorly-ist peer-reviewed papers… Facebook.
I mean Reuters. Reuters reporting on Facebook — which is somehow better?
Being a fan of all things fossilized and fantastic, I’m sure you’re interested to find out that one of Wyoming’s most famous landmarks, Devil’s Tower, is actually the remains of a fossilized tree.
One headline screamed:
DEVILS TOWER US…ORIGINALLY A GIANT TREE.
The article goes on to talk about the Parks Department glamping near the tower when they decided to conduct some “photographic seismic readings below the tower.”
Now, this is usually when I stop the story for a moment to remind the listeners at home that I have an art degree and don’t know about seismology… but I do know about “photographic” stuff, and.. that’s… not how this works. Even if we were going with the Sci-Fi channel definition of ground penatrating radar you don’t get a hololense-style 3D dirt print. Or photons. Because of ground.
But I’m sure it was like X-Rays or something, otherwise, the reporting of the “Casper Planet” and “InfinityNews.com” might not be up to snuff.
They do provide a print out though. It’s very… details. Much science.
That’s right, a massive tree that may well have been full of giant blue people, you don’t know. Its roots reach an impressive four miles deep, spanning a nearly 7 mile “wide”-ness… of area.
According to the Wyoming State Parks Department:
"We have discovered, what looks like a giant root system stemming from the base of The Devils Tower. The root system has been measured at 4 miles deep by 7 miles wide.
End quote without ending quotation mark and like… all the audible sic’s…
Meanwhile, Nicholos Myers, Supervisory Park Ranger for the Devils Tower National Monument and part of the National Park Service (NPS) commented to Reuters via email that yes, this is bullshit.
“there is no evidence to support such a theory as a tree stump or petrified tree roots."
He then linked Reuters to an actual source of things worth knowing, the National Parks Service page on formation theories. Notably, none of them are “giant avatar spirit tree.” But I’m guessing that’s just because the truth is being surpressed by Big Tree!
We’ll have to turn into KGAB 650 AM for more. They’ve promised to update the story when new information comes out… or is made up.
Or next set of links claims to hold the truth behind the missing one — link, that is.
The Piltdown Man. Or, as he’s more commonly known, the British answer to Homo heidelbergensis.
In 1907 a mine worker in German discovered the jaw bone of heidelbergensis, a 200- to 600- thousand year old hominin and likely ancestor of the bipeds you are already familiar with.
Amid growing international tensions, this was bad news for the UK. So, it wasn’t long, 1912, before Charles Dawson, a professional lawyer, and amature fossil hunter from Sussex claimed to have found a “thick portion of a human(?) skull which will rival H. heidelbergensis in solidity” near the Sussex village of Piltdown.
Skulls, courtesy of Natural History Museum U.K.
Excited to have one up on the Zee Germans, the British human evolution research community embraced the skull fragments and bits of teeth with open arms, excitedly exclaiming they’d found the “missing link.”
A recreation of the skull
Unfortunately, fakers gonna fake.
The Piltdown man faced criticism from the start, but who's going to let a little thing like the facts get in the way of national pride…
As time wore on other examples of actual evolutionary links became common in China, Africa, Indonesia, and the like. None of which seemed to align with what we knew about Piltdown.
In 1953 science finally got its shit together and the University of Oxford used the then-new technique of fluorine dating — old bones absorb more from the groundwater, thereby providing rough dates — and found that not only was Piltdown not hundreds of thousands of years old. Moreover, many of the teeth didn’t seem to be the same age. So unless they’d found the missing toothfairy link, something was up.
In 2009, Isabelle De Groote, a paleoanthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University went full CSI on Piltdown and found through the use of CT scans and DNA sequencing that the bones were those of an orangutan. The bits were likely purchased at one of many, then-popular, “curiosity” shops.
She also noted that the teeth had been painted. Not sure how we missed that until 2009, but there ya go.
“Throughout the whole assemblage, there’s evidence of one hand, one maker, one signature,” De Groote says.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the “one maker” most fossilized fraudsters would prefer.
He showed them what they wanted to see. “Dawson really played a very clever card,” De Groote says. “With the findings coming out of Germany, and Britain wanting to be at the forefront of science, there was this sense that, ‘We must have these fossils in Britain, as well.’”
So there ya go, overzealous nationalism enabled a fraudster to convince swaths of a country to buy into a gross, old, orange, primates version of national pride. I hope that never happens again. hmm…
If you’re interested in knowing more, I’d suggest the 2012 book “The Piltdown Man Hoax: Case Closed” by Miles Russell, a archaeologist in Bournemouth, U.K.
“Piltdown Man sets a good example of the need for us to take a step back and look at the evidence for what it is,” De Groote says, “and not for whether it conforms to our preconceived ideas.”
Solid advice, especially when working with the over-foreheaded. What’s left of all of this is now in storage at the Natural History Museum U.K.
Finally — thanks rule of 3’s — we need to talk about our nearest, neandertal neighbor, Nebraska Man. And no, we’re not talking about Friend of the Show Nebraska-Brendon. He’s way too into yoga to turn into a rock. Just say’n…
For this, we need to talk about Hesperopithecus, the First Anthropoid Promate Found in America. Which also happens to be the name of the paper first published on the 5th of May, 1922, in Vol. 55, Issue 1427, of Science.
The article is behind a science.com paywall but this is your friendly, neighborhood skeptic’s reminder that JSTOR gives 100 papers a month away with a free account. So go sign up and read the sweet, sweet, lies of old.
I mean, evidence. Evidence of old.
Side note, apparently a subscription to Science in 1922 was $6/a., which is about $105 today, which is itself about half the cost of a current AAAS membership.
The article is about a tooth.
Based solely on this tooth, paleontologist Henry Fairfield Osborn wrote the article I mentioned detailing the “evidence” for Hesperopithecus haroldcookii.
Look at your phones now to see the tooth as compared to other primates. It’s on the left.
Per his article “it is hard to believe that a single small water-worn tooth, 10.5 mm by 11mm, in crown diameter, can signalize the arrival of the anthropoid Primates in North America in Pliocene time.”
And yes, that is hard to believe. Aron, any thoughts here?
Osborn sent the tooth on March 14th of 1922 by Dr. Matthew and Dr. Gregory, other identifiers not given in the paper, who concluded that it was, in fact, the first evidence of an arthropod ape in America. Named for the farmer who unearthed it, Harold J. Cook, the Hesperopithecus haroldcookii, was making waves.
With interest piqued, trips were made to Nebraska in 1925 and 26 to continue the dig. Which they did with great success, unearthing a number of bones… Peccary, boones.
The Peccary is a pig-like hoofed mammal that looks like an anteater and a pig had a derpy baby.
The tooth, then, was also discovered to form a peccary and not a human. Laying the Nebraska Man myth to bed…
Except in that, it was, and sometimes still is, used in the Creation-Evolution debate. More on that in show lins and, I imagine, from Aron.
I’m Aaron, and this week I learned that “Flinstone’s Time” isn’t a scientific term…
I’d like to thank all our listeners, supporters, my co-host, and our fantastic guest, Aron!
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The music for this episode was created by Wayne Jones and was used with permission.
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