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Transcripts 10–17

Transcripts 1–9 | 10–17 | 19–27 | 28–36

Scimitar-toothed cat

10. How did this extinct cat capture its prey?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 10

Transcript 10

Scimitar-toothed cats were about the size of modern African lions, but had a lighter build with long forelimbs and relatively shorter hindlimbs. These cats used their sharp, retractile claws to help pull down large prey. Scimitar-toothed cats, as did other saber-toothed cats, possessed flattened and serrated upper canine teeth that were effective weapons. The elongate canines were used in killing bites to the throat or abdomen of large Pleistocene herbivores such as bison, mammoth, horse, and camel. The adult and kitten skeletons on exhibit were excavated from Friesenhahn Cave, near San Antonio. This cave was used as a den by these extinct cats about 20,000 years ago.


11. Is this a giant armadillo?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 11

Transcript 11

Glyptodonts are an extinct type of mammal related to armadillos, sloths and anteaters. Glyptodont skeletons include thick protective armor that covered them from head to tail. Their 5 foot long “shell” (called a carapace) is like that of an armadillo, but lacks the “bands” seen in the midsection of armadillos. The tail, clad in armor, could serve as a club, but it was mostly used for balance during locomotion. Glyptodonts had short square skulls and chewed the plants they ate with a forward-grinding motion. The name “glyptodont” means “carved tooth” in Greek, named for the grooves found on the outside of their teeth.


12. What are the strange bones found in the belly of this fish?

Dr. Pamela R. Owen
Senior Biodiversity Educator
Podcast 12

Transcript 12

Xiphactinus is often called the “bulldog fish”, given its large conical teeth in the front of its mouth. This extinct predatory fish swallowed its prey whole. The strange bones found along the bottom of this fish’s belly are not the remains of its last meal, but actually its paired pelvic bones. These bones make up what is called the pelvic girdle, to which a pair of pelvic fins attaches. As in many bony fish, the pelvic fins, in addition to the pectoral fins, are used for maneuvering in the water. Because the pelvic girdle is embedded in muscle in life, the bones look like they are floating in the belly in fossilized fish skeletons.

Blue Topaz

13. What causes the blue color in this topaz?

Dr. Ann Molineux
NPL Collections Manager
Podcast 13

Transcript 13

Topaz is one of the hardest minerals and the hardest natural silicate, an aluminum silicate with varying amounts of water and fluorine. Those with high water content are yellow or brown; those with high fluorine are blue or clear. One of the most famous topaz gemstones is the clear Braganza stone in the Portuguese crown. Thought for centuries to be a diamond, it weighs a mighty 1680 ct…that’s actually smaller than our specimen! Topaz is found in mineralized zones within granites and is secondarily washed into river deposits. Many Texas samples are found in the stream gravels draining the Llano uplift, such as Sandy Creek draining Enchanted Rock, an exposed granite dome northwest of Austin.

Banded Iron

14. Where are the richest sources of iron ore in the world?

Dr. Ann Molineux
NPL Collections Manager
Podcast 14

Transcript 14

What do engine blocks, train tracks, ships and bridges have in common?—IRON. Iron makes up about 5% of the Earth’s crust. We often see it in Cretaceous aged rocks around central Texas as flecks of red or yellow, or the glinting grains of ‘fools gold’—iron pyrite. Most of the world’s iron ore, however, was formed in the middle Precambrian around 2 billion years ago. The great banded iron deposits are the richest source of iron ore; some of the Australian Pilbara deposits, such as this specimen, have as much as 65% iron ore, while the Mesabi Range in Minnesota has 70%. The Australian banded iron formations’s are sometimes termed tiger iron because of the amount of bright yellow tiger’s eye in the rock.

Texas Pterosaur

15. What is the largest flying animal ever discovered?

Dr. Edward Theriot
Podcast 15

Transcript 15

The Texas Pterosaur is the largest flying animal ever discovered. Scientists think its wingspan was about 35 feet. However, it may have only weighed about 400 pounds because its bones were extremely hollow and fragile. In fact, nearly all of the fossils of this creature were only preserved because mud filled the fragile bones and hardened. Thus, a fossil skeleton of the Pterosaur would weigh a ton or more. Also, a complete animal has never been found. The recreation in our Great Hall was fashioned from a composite skeleton made up of what were probably 26 different specimens of the Texas Pterosaur. It probably flew by simple soaring and gliding, and also was probably capable of making a motion with its wingtips similar to pushing itself through the air.

Amethyst Quartz Geode

16. Why are the lights so low in this display case?

Dr. Ann Molineux
NPL Collections Manager
Podcast 16

Transcript 16

Massive amethyst geodes come from the South American Serra Geral Formation, a basaltic lava flow where the bubbles of gas left cavities in which the mineral crystals later formed. The geodes can be very tall and slender or massive squat shapes such as the one on display. The rich dark purple color of the crystals results from a complex interplay of aluminum and iron, that color can be lost if the specimen is exposed to direct sunlight, halogen or fluorescent light for long periods. If amethyst is subjected to additional heat during formation, it will turn yellow. Citrine, also known as yellow quartz, is formed in this way.


17. What group of insects contains the largest number of species?

Dr. John C. Abbott
Former Curator of Entomology
Podcast 17

Transcript 17

Beetles epitomize diversity. They are the largest group of insects representing a fifth of all living organisms and a fourth of all animals. No other group of animals exhibits such a range of size, color and shape. Since the early Permian period, about 240 million years ago, beetles have evolved into nature’s single most astounding array of color and form. Nearly every strategy for animal life on land is represented in this remarkable group. Their diversity, which eloquently extends beyond the physical, encompassing strategies of behavior, defense, reproduction, and adaptation, has been appreciated since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Approximately two-thirds of the known beetle species reside in just eight families, including the Scarabaeidae, the family that includes the most of the beetles you are looking at.