How Plants Became Carnivorous

Carnivorous plants are rare and only develop in certain habitats, but they are perhaps the most intriguing example of flora on the planet. So fascinating that Charles Darwin published an entire book on them in 1875 after a decade or more of research. It  would take another 100-plus years before scientists could propose a definition of what counts as a carnivorous plant.

There are essentially two things that a plant has to do to be considered a carnivore: First, it has to have the ability to take in nutrients from dead prey and secondly, the plant has to have at least one adaptation that actively lures in, catches or digests its prey. But because this is nature, there are always exceptions to these rules.

So one of the nagging questions facing scientists is how and why does botanical carnivory keep evolving? It turns out that when any of the basic things that most plants need aren’t there, some plants can adapt in unexpected ways to make sure they thrive. Host Kallie Moore takes a deeper look into specifics and tells us how plants became carnivores in this episode of PBS Eons.

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When Insects First Flew

Insects were the first animals able to fly and they did it best. That’s because evolution works with what it has and the fact that body structures don’t crop up very often. This development by insects was so unusual that scientists are still working on–and arguing about–how and when insect wings first came about. Hallie Moore fills in the details in this episode of PBS Eons.

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When Hobbits Were Real

We already know about small-bodied, small-brained hominins in our human-fossil record. That’s why it was so shocking in 2004 when anthropologists discovered a tiny unknown hominin on the Indonesian island of Flores. Although only a meter tall and appearing to  be not very old, it had features of an older hominin. The specimen–Homo Floresiensis–became commonly called “The Hobbit,” because of its short stature and oddly proportioned feet. Tune in to learn more about The Hobbit from PBS Eons.

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When We First Walked

In 1978, fossilized footprints preserved in volcanic ash were discovered in Laetoli, Tanzania, by legendary anthropologist Mary Leakey, proving that our human ancestors were already striding across the landscape 3.6 million years ago.

The discovery was monumental, because it contradicted a long-standing idea about human evolution, perhaps debunking the theory that early humans developed a large brain before they stood up. Host Kallie Moore explains in this episode of PBS Eons.

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When Apes Conquered Europe

It wasn’t quite Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, but between 23 million and 5 million years ago in the Miocene Epoch, apes occupied all of Europe. The massive migration was the direct result of Africa’s climate becoming drier and experiencing more seasonal variations. Today, the apes live only in small pockets of Asia and Africa. So what happened to the apes in Europe? PBS Eons gives us the answers.

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Can We Take DNA From Fossils?

In 1993, scientists cracked open a piece of amber, took out the body of an ancient weevil and sampled its DNA. Or, at least, so we thought. It took another few decades of research and a lot of take-backs, before scientists could figure out how we could truly unlock the genetic secrets of the past. Learn more from PBS Eons.

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When Fish First Breathed Air

Four hundred million years ago, a group of fish would undertake one of the most important journeys in the history of life and become the first vertebrates to live on dry ground. But first, they had to acquire the ability to breathe air. So how did these animals, which had been adapted for millennia to life under water, learn how to breathe? PBS Eons host Kallie Moore takes an in-depth look at the group’s incredible journey.

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How We Domesticated Cats

Unlike dogs, it’s difficult to get cats to do stuff. So how on earth did we domesticate these sometimes lovable felines? Actually, feral cats are thought to have been domesticated twice–once in southeast Asia 10,000 years ago and again in Egypt 3,500 years ago. Today, cats have truly taken over the world with an estimated population of 600,000 million. In the following video, PBS Eons tells us the story of how the close relationship between cats and humans began and is still flourishing today.

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