Neil Shubin at Case Western Reserve

Got an hour? A good way to spend it would be to watch Neil Shubin lecture about digging in the arctic for fossil tetrapods.

I wonder if this is available in high-quality DVD format? I could see using this in the classroom.


  1. #1 Heidi Anderson
    November 25, 2008

    I saw Neil Shubin when he came to Greenville, SC and was like a freakin’ rock star. When I met him in the green room before an dgot him to sign some of his books, he was very quiet and unassuming, almost shy. But as soon as he got onstage and began talking, he became so passionate and charismatic.

    When he comes to Charlotte, NC in 2009, I am making all my friends go with me!

  2. #2 cervantes
    November 25, 2008

    Fossils in the arctic? That’s interesting. These creatures must have been wiped out in the flood, of course, along with the dinosaurs and unicorns — but I suppose that in the arctic, the flood took the form of a great snowstorm, and they were buried rather than drowned. The Bible is not explicit about this, but it must be the case.

  3. #3 Katrina
    November 25, 2008

    I see that iTunes has it available for download through iTunes-U. Don’t know about the video quality. The rest of the “Year of Darwin” lectures are available, as well.

    They also have the audiobook of Your Inner Fish for $18.95.

  4. #4 The Science Pundit
    November 25, 2008

    I saw him when he was in Philly. I agree that this is a lecture that everybody should watch. Great stuff!

  5. #5 Amanda
    November 25, 2008

    I saw that lecture…it was absolutely fantastic and there were some great questions at the end. If I’m not mistaken, many of the audience were SVP conference attendees.

    Neil Shubin is friggin’ fantastic.

  6. #6 JBlilie
    November 25, 2008

    Brilliant. I would buy this on DVD if available. I enjoyed his book very much as well. A very articulate man. This sort of prediction/discovery givesme goosebumps. Amazing stuff. Dr. Shubin will probably bring lots of young people into paleontology.

  7. #7 TSC
    November 25, 2008

    He’s styling. Even more important; he’s not wearing his vest. 2 points for proteoglycans and hydroxyapatite.

  8. #8 LisaJ
    November 25, 2008

    I saw him, and met him, when he came to Ottawa last January. He gave about a one hour talk about his work, and it was great. He gives a really engaging and informative lecture… a video worth your time, for sure!

  9. #9 Nerdette
    November 25, 2008

    I was going in to one of the buildings on the Quad to talk with my biodiversity prof. As I opened the door, I instinctively looked back to see if any one was behind me, and lo and behold, Prof. Shubin was standing behind me. He made eye contact, took the door from me, and said, “Thank you.”

    And then I cursed myself for not having my copy of “Your Inner Fish” in my bag…

    Rock star professors, you gotta love em 😉

  10. #10 Leslie in Canada
    November 25, 2008

    I too heard him speak in Ottawa and would recommend taking anyone interested in science to see him. These are the kind of speakers that inspire youngsters.

  11. #11 Things that make you go Hmmm
    November 25, 2008

    Isn’t it fascinating that when a developmental biologist posts an article directly related to developmental biology on “the largest online community dedicated to science”, it garners all of 11 comments.

    The medium is the message.

  12. #12 lynn
    November 25, 2008

    A delightful delivery of Neil’s “Your Inner Fish” published in 2208. Mark Decker and Sehoya Cotner, Biology professors at the U of M, suggested it to me. A very good read.

  13. #13 Sven DiMilo
    November 25, 2008

    Got an hour?

    Hell no. Got a stack of lab reports to grade though.

  14. #14 ggab
    November 25, 2008

    Relax and give it time pal.
    Fantastic stuff. I could have watched it at twice the length.
    I’ve got to see if he ever makes it down my way. I’d love to see him speak.

  15. #15 raven
    November 25, 2008

    The part in Your Inner Fish that was most fascinating was the fieldwork part. Traveling to the high arctic and fossil hunting. IIRC, they spent years before finding the right sediments, near shore Devonian.

    It can snow anytime there even in summer. Cold but one doesn’t have to worry about clearing trees from your quarries.

    I’ve always wondered if he or anyone has plans to go back to the original spot and dig out more Tiktaalik fossils. A few Taktaalik tetrapods are way better than zero but, after spending all that time just finding the right beds, it would seem logical to take advantage of the find.

  16. #16 LisaJ
    November 25, 2008

    #15: I’m pretty sure that when I saw Dr. Shubin speak he did say that members of his team were heading back to search for more fossils.

  17. #17 karen marie
    November 25, 2008

    thank you, dr. myers — i’m bookmarking this to watch with a 15-year-old i know.

  18. #18 Rick T
    November 25, 2008


    Usually you can tell when a troll comes to a thread because of the amount of comments generated. When something is as straight forward and accepted as Tiktaalik is you will see less comments because there is no controversy…until a nut job tries to rub two thoughts together and spark nonsense.
    However, I watched the whole thing, something that I rarely do when PZ links videos of IDiots spouting and ranting. To some it is pure entertainment to whack a troll but to me it is hard to take.
    To each his or her own. I’ve read Shubin’s book and am reading it again.
    Just because there are few comments doesn’t mean it is not a hit with us and just because a comment thread reaches 1000 are we to assume that the topic has been a hit with everyone.

  19. #19 raven
    November 25, 2008

    I’m pretty sure that when I saw Dr. Shubin speak he did say that members of his team were heading back to search for more fossils.

    OK, thanks for the info. Fossil collecting in such extreme environments always sounds challenging. I suppose for people in their 20’s and 30’s, it is great fun camping out and scrambling over miles of rocky terrain while keeping an eye out for polar bears. After a certain age, it might not be quite so entertaining.

  20. #20 bunnycatch3r
    November 25, 2008

    Ok, so tiktaalik is an ancestor of mammals?

  21. #21 Janine ID AKA The Lone Drinker
    November 25, 2008

    Most informative and interesting. Damn, I wish videos like this were more readily available twenty five years ago.

  22. #22 amon
    November 25, 2008

    Simply wonderful, inspiring, life-affirming work

    Is it possible to create an html shortcut, so that in future, when trolls say “just show us an intermediate specimen”, we can auto-link to this video file ?

  23. #23 Sven DiMilo
    November 25, 2008

    Ok, so tiktaalik is an ancestor of mammals?

    Probably not, but something closely related and very like it was a common ancestor of all living tetrapods: mammals, birds, turtles, frogs, crocs, salamanders, lizards. snakes…

  24. #24 ggab
    November 25, 2008

    Do you really think you can get a creationist to sit and watch thif for an Hour?

    Story time boys and girls!!

    I ran into a childhood friend on myspace. Haven’t seen him in years.
    One of the first messages I got from him was about “Expelled”. He called it “One of the most important documentaries I’ve ever seen”.
    I was picking up a copy of Ken Miller’s “Only a Theory” and picked up a second copy to send to him. i figured it would be easier to hear from a Christian. As an atheist he would think I was part of the conspiracy.
    When I tried to describe the book to him, he said it sounded like “something between propaganda and toilet paper”.
    I decided to find a different home for the book.
    I’m pretty sure he already has a copy of the only book that he’s willing to read.

  25. #25 secularskeptic
    November 25, 2008

    Absolutely magnificent. Such an exciting find, and such a lucid and passionate description of it. I still need to read his book.

  26. #26 Riman Butterbur
    November 25, 2008

    Not my field of primary interest, so I didn’t hang on every word.

    Being interested in linguistics, I did note the discussions with the Inuit about the name:

    “It was a fresh-water fish.”

    “Oh, you mean tiktaalik.”

    “What’s that?”

    “A fresh-water fish!”

    I wonder, tho, if the informant had in mind a particular species of fish, and was merely describing it as a (ie, one kind of) fresh-water fish? Maybe a species not closely related to other fresh-water fish?

    I wonder if the discussions with the Inuit were extensive enough to clear that up?

  27. #27 The 502
    November 25, 2008

    Great stuff! I’m passing this along to everyone.

  28. #28 Craig Messerman
    November 25, 2008

    I just downloaded the iTunes-U version and it’s about the same quality as the YouTube. Be advised that parts 1 and 2 are labeled incorrectly (reversed). There is a whole lecture option too.

  29. #29 cathy
    November 25, 2008

    I love Neil Shubin! I saw him speak here at the University of Alabama last year (yes, we actually DO have an evolution lecture series in Alabama; some of the people who show up are wackos looking for an argument).

  30. #30 moo
    November 25, 2008

    Neil Shubin rules …’nuff said.

  31. #31 Peter McKellar
    November 25, 2008


    I don’t know about DVD availability, but to view in HD add “&fmt=22” to the url:


    This won’t make much (any?) difference if the original upload was lo-def. With this video, when displayed on youtube without the fmt= there is a “Watch in high quality” link and the fmt=22 has a “Watch in normal quality”, so you may be lucky…..

  32. #32 the pro from dover
    November 25, 2008

    For every repetitive religion bashing post and every post that equates all Christians with serpent handling speaking-in tongues strawmen so favored in this blog there should be at least one of this kind of really meaningful evolutionary biology educational opportunity. Thanks PZ for 75 well spent minutes in my busy day. Happy Thanksgiving. TPFD.

  33. #33 Kel
    November 25, 2008

    I’ve got “Your Inner Fish” being shipped out to me at the moment, really excited about reading it.

  34. #34 Robin Friedrich
    November 25, 2008

    And if you have TWO hours to spend this link to Kenneth Miller is worth it too.

  35. #35 Nerd of Redhead
    November 25, 2008

    Very nice talk. I loved the logical way he went about finding the right strata to look in, got the money/equipment, got to the end of the earth, and found some interesting fossils. Very solid story.

  36. #36 Steve Page
    November 26, 2008

    I don’t have a spare hour at the moment, but I read “Your Inner Fish” earlier this year, so I’d enjoy watching this lecture. Consider it bookmarked!

  37. #37 Ashley Moore
    November 26, 2008

    This is the best video I’ve seen on the web in ages and the best description of the actual process of paleontology field work I’ve ever heard.

    I also liked how he showed that paleontology isn’t just a series of unrelated facts or just-so stories, but a large body of consistent related discplines (geology, anatomy, evolution) that fit together to give expected results and point to areas where knowledge could be improved.

  38. #38 Kel
    November 26, 2008

    Both informative and highly entertaining. Come on amazon order, I want to read his book already!

  39. #39 Jason
    November 26, 2008

    hooray for CWRU! my alma mater!

  40. #40 Diagoras
    November 26, 2008

    When he was talking about the Fram – I was filled with glee. I’ve been to the Fram museum in Oslo – which is the home of that ship. (Down the road from the Kon-tiki, and the Viking ship museums.) Thank for the heads up on this lecture. Very rock star professor, indeed.

  41. #41 Qwerty
    November 26, 2008

    I listened to it yesterday. One can only imagine the excitement of filling in a gap in knowledge. Neil Shubin is an explorer of our planet’s past.

    I’ve enjoyed other lectures on evolution on youtube. Kenneth Miller is good. And Barbara Forrest and Eugenie Scott do a great job on the evolution v ID/Creationism.

    I like the energy and detail he brought to this lecture. I highly recommend it.

  42. #42 John Phillips, FCD
    November 26, 2008

    Thanks PZ, well worth an hour or so of anyones time.

  43. #43 Arnosium Upinarum
    November 26, 2008

    Excellent. Nothing more to say, just adding my bit to help snork #11.

  44. #44 Yossarian
    November 26, 2008

    I went to Case, and they tend to keep pretty much all of their lectures in high quality. Contact the school of arts and sciences to find out ( how to get a hold of it.

  45. #45 Riman Butterbur
    November 27, 2008

    Posted by: Craig Messerman | November 26, 2008 00:12 AM UT

    I just downloaded the iTunes-U version and it’s about the same quality as the YouTube. Be advised that parts 1 and 2 are labeled incorrectly (reversed). There is a whole lecture option too.

    All podcasts are listed in inverse chronological order. You can reverse them by clicking the arrow at the top of the # column, but that makes the numbers read backwards.

    I don’t know why so many things are arranged like that — podcasts, emails, blog topics — would it kill the codewriters to arrange it so the window opens scrolled down to the beginning of the last item? Then anybody who wants to go back could just scroll back once, instead of constantly scrolling back & forth.


    Anyway, consider # 11 snorked again.

  46. #46 Sili
    December 6, 2008

    Origin of the Species?!!

    Tsk tsk tsk.

    His enthusiasm is contagious. Every bit as awesome as the book.

    Who was the annoying, whining “two new gaps!” guy?

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