Which Feathered Dinosaurs Could Fly? | Some French Cheeses At Risk Of Extinction

Episode 711,   Feb 20, 09:00 PM

Researchers found that a specific number and symmetry of certain feathers can indicate whether a bird (or dinosaur) could fly. Plus, a lack of diversity in the microbes that make Camembert, brie, and some blue cheeses could mean we bid adieu to some French varieties.

How Do You Know If A Feathered Dinosaur Could Fly?

Not all birds can fly. Penguins, ostriches, and kiwis are some famous examples.

It’s pretty easy to figure out if a living bird can fly. But it’s a bit tricker when it comes to extinct birds or bird ancestors, like dinosaurs. Remember, all birds are dinosaurs, but not all dinosaurs evolved into birds.

Scientists at Chicago’s Field Museum wanted to figure out if there was a way to tell if a dinosaur could fly or not. They found that the number and symmetry of flight feathers are reliable indicators of whether a bird or dinosaur could lift off the ground.

Ira talks with two of the study’s co-authors about their research and how it might help us understand how dinosaur flight evolved. Dr. Yosef Kiat is a postdoctoral researcher and Dr. Jingmai O’Connor is the associate curator of fossil reptiles at The Field Museum in Chicago.

Sacre Bleu! Some French Cheeses At Risk Of Extinction

There’s bad news for the Camembert and brie lovers out there: According to the French National Center for Scientific Research, some beloved soft cheeses are at risk of extinction. The culprit? A lack of microbial diversity in the mold strains used to make Camemberts and bries.

As with many foods, consumers expect the cheese they buy to be consistent over time. We want the brie we buy today to look and taste like the brie we bought three months ago. But there’s a downside to this uniformity—the strain of Penicillium microbes used to make these cheeses can’t reproduce sexually, meaning it must be cloned. That means these microbes are not resilient, and susceptible to errors in the genome. Over the years, P. camemberti has picked up mutations that make it much harder to clone, meaning it’s getting harder to create the bries we know and love.

Joining Ira to talk about this is Benji Jones, senior environmental reporter at Vox based in New York City.

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