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Tonight we discover the “Sea-dragon”: a mythical-sounding Jurassic beast-from-the-deep with a fascinating evolutionary history. But not all carnivores are sharp-toothed giants. Some plants too have developed a taste for meat, but how on earth have they evolved to do that?
Insects and pitcher plants: a sticky situation, or a slippery slope?
Ulrike Bauer (Royal Society University Research Fellow)
Have you ever wondered how a fly can easily climb a window, or how an ant can hang upside down while holding 100 times its own body weight, yet both are helplessly slipping and falling to their death when they encounter the traps of an insect-eating pitcher plant? We will explore how the arrangement of footpads, hairs and claws allows insects to negotiate surfaces in all kinds of orientations. You will see how insects can both stick well and move fast. And you will get to know the rich repertoire of tricks that carnivorous pitcher plants use to overcome the superior stickiness of insect feet.
Back to the Water: Ichthyosaurs in the 21st Century
Just over 200 years since Joseph and Mary Anning found the huge fossil of an extinct reptile on a beach in Dorset, we’re finally starting to get to grips with the evolution of ichthyosaurs. These fish-like marine reptiles are now represented by over 100 species ranging from small shell-crushers to massive, whale-sized animals. And yet, there are still many questions to answer about their 160 million years evolution. I will take a snapshot of the history of study to the most recent breakthroughs in ichthyosaur science: how new techniques to study are answering old questions and posing new ones.