Which animal holds the title of “man’s best friend”? Of course, the answer is the dog. Dogs have lived with humans for thousands of years. Scientists’ understanding of how this came to be has changed in recent years. Additionally, scientists now study dog DNA in the hope of learning more about human DNA. Listen to hear a scientist explain the current understanding of the bond between humans and dogs, and how man’s best friend is helping to uncover mysteries hidden in human DNA.
Just how fast is a cheetah? Fast enough to earn the title “fastest land animal on the planet!” In this audio story, a scientist explains how various adaptations allow the cheetah to run at unbeatable (and unbelievable) speeds. Listen to hear about external and internal adaptations that help the cheetah run so fast.
Paleontologists learn about dinosaurs by searching for and studying fossils, which provide evidence about how a living dinosaur would have looked or acted. They use what they learn to teach others. Occasionally, paleontologists make a discovery that changes a previously accepted idea. Listen to hear more about what paleontologists do, and to learn about some of the dinosaurs that have been discovered and named.
Human beings have a long-standing fascination with dinosaurs that dates back to the discovery of the first fossils. To this day, people of all ages visit museums and fossil sites to study and learn more about these prehistoric creatures. This audio story features the answer to a seemingly simple question: how did the dinosaur age begin? Listen to hear what scientists know about the beginning of the age of dinosaurs. The story may contain a few surprises!
Current Event April 28, 2020
The relationship between humans and dogs is a special one, and there are multiple theories about how it originated and how it has changed over time. All dogs evolved from wolves, and scientists are learning more about that evolutionary process through research about similarities and differences in the behavior of wolves and dogs. Listen to this story about a game of fetch and how it might inform scientists’ understanding of the history of the special relationship between species.
Current Event August 15, 2019
Has a dog ever given you “puppy eyes”? If so, you probably did whatever your furry friend wanted. According to a recent study, “puppy eyes” result from thousands of years of evolution impacted by the relationship between humans and dogs. This distinctive expression comes from a specific muscle and creates unique effects that help dogs become “man’s best friend.” Listen to learn more about why “puppy eyes” are so powerful and how studying dogs can help humans learn more about themselves.
Current Event May 30, 2019
Everyone feels stress, which can have a significant impact on health. A new book explains how and why stress affects the body and describes what people can do to lower the negative effects of stress on their health. Listen to this interview with the authors to learn about the evolutionary value of stress and how to keep it from causing burnout in today’s modern world.
Current Event April 10, 2019
Scientists are curious about how humans evolved to help each other, which is different from the typical behavior of other animals. To investigate social behaviors such as helping and sharing, researchers have performed experiments to see how willing other primates are to share food and supplies. Listen to learn about their research on how other primates approach sharing and how that differs from human behavior.
Current Event May 10, 2018
Over the past 125,000 years, mammals on Earth have become smaller. Ten thousand years ago the average mass of a mammal was 200 pounds and today the average mass is about 15 pounds. After dinosaurs became extinct, mammals became larger and new species developed. But when ancient humans evolved, they began hunting bigger animals. Eventually, in all areas populated by humans, the size of mammals became smaller and led to extinction in many cases. Listen to hear more about the effects humans have had on the size of mammals.
Current Event September 20, 2017
Animals with long limbs and lots of muscle should be faster than other animals. In reality, even though a giraffe has much longer legs than a cheetah, it runs only about half as fast. This is because there are other factors involved in acceleration and speed of animals, such as how much energy they have to burn. Listen to learn about how new research on animal speeds can give scientists clues about the lives of prehistoric animals.
Current Event August 16, 2017
Animals employ all sorts of techniques to avoid becoming prey. This is a story about one species of spider that have learned to mimic the movement of ants to avoid detection by predators. Listen to learn more about the life of a professional insect impersonator.
The Tibetan Plateau is one of the highest and coldest places on Earth. Many of the world’s tallest mountains, including Mt. Everest, is on the Tibetan Plateau. For millions of years, animals living in this region have needed to adapt to extremely cold temperatures. When an ice age took over Europe and Asia about 2.5 million years ago, this adaptation may have given animals living on the plateau an evolutionary advantage. Listen to hear about the discovery of the woolly rhino on this plateau and the new theories resulting from the discovery.
Current Event September 22, 2016
Sharks can live to be over two hundred years old, and recently a Greenland shark was found who may have lived up to 512 years. These sharks are the longest living vertebrates known to exist. They can be found swimming in the Arctic seas, where researchers are spending time studying the old creatures. Listen to the story to hear more about this fascinating species.
Current Event November 5, 2015
If you have looked closely at the eyes of different animals, you will notice their pupils come in various shapes: round, vertical or horizontal ovals or crescents. Scientists now think they know the reason behind the shape of some animals’ pupils. There is diversity in shape because it depends on how big the animal is and whether it’s a predator or prey. It also relates to their view of the horizon. Listen to hear more about the new discovery and what it can tell us about animals and evolution.
Current Event September 22, 2015
A new species that tells us something about humans origins was recently discovered deep inside a cave in South Africa. This discovery is a mystery in many ways. How did the bones get there? What is their significance? The bones are so deep inside the cave they were almost inaccessible; scientists had to climb down a steep cliff and crawl through a cave to collect them. This new species appears to have very small brains but similar feet and hands to modern humans. It has been named Homo naledi, the newest addition to the genus Homo. Where do they fit in the story of human evolution? Listen to hear more about this remarkable discovery.
Current Event June 18, 2015
Scientists have long debated when early humans learned that they could use fire to cook their food. Some believe this occurred soon after humans learned to control fire, others argue there isn’t enough evidence. A scientific study in a chimpanzee sanctuary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shed new light on these persistent questions. The experiment gave chimps a machine to “cook” their food and tracked their preference for cooked food and how it changed their eating behaviors. Listen to learn more about this experiment and how it plays into the debate about when early humans began to cook.
As plants and animals reproduce over time, they are able to change and adapt to ensure or improve their chances of survival. The evolutionary goal of reproduction is paired with the concept of natural selection and survival of the fittest to determine who will reproduce. From colorful plumage to size, different species use different strategies to ensure reproduction and mate selection. The sand tiger shark has a unique strategy to ensure successful reproduction - and it depends on the timing of mating. Listen to learn more about the ultimate sibling rivalry while in the womb.
Animal species evolve and adapt over time. This ability to change lays the groundwork for human evolution. Over 375 million years ago an important transition in this lineage occurred - animals living in the sea, began living on land. This complex process happened gradually over generations and an unusual fish fossil found in the Canadian Arctic may help enhance our understanding of this progression.
Current Event January 29, 2015
Great apes such as orangutans, chimpanzees and gorillas have long been known for their intelligence and have been thought to be early ancestors of humans. Orangutans who could whistle led scientists to discover even more fascinating orangutan vocalizations. Listen to learn more about this discovery and what it may mean for the origin of human speech.
Current Event November 6, 2014
When people don’t get enough sleep they aren’t able to think clearly, but why? A new study has uncovered what happens in the brain of animals as they sleep. These findings shed light on why people and animals need sleep and help researchers better understand the links between sleep and Alzheimers. Listen to this public radio story about why sleep is important to brain health.