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Ancient Survivors

Horseshoe crabs, velvet worms – snails, clams, lizards and more. We’ll explore the world’s oldest creatures. Survivors. Untouched by time.

A prehistoric looking horseshoe crab is bathed in the warm light of the morning sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay near Mathews, Va., Friday, Sept. 14, 2007. Horseshoe crabs are considered to be living fossils because their appearance has not changed since their origin over 20 million years ago. (AP)

A prehistoric looking horseshoe crab is bathed in the warm light of the morning sunrise on the Chesapeake Bay near Mathews, Va., Friday, Sept. 14, 2007. Horseshoe crabs are considered to be living fossils because their appearance has not changed since their origin over 20 million years ago. (AP)

Life forms come and go on this planet. An amazing few have stuck around. Through meteorite strike, that wiped out the dinosaurs, and great extinction that killed almost everything. Through ice age and poisoned seas. The horseshoe crab has hung in there. The lungfish. The velvet worm. The gingko tree.

An amazing few are supreme survivors. Mastodon, gone. Musk ox, still here. Platypus, still here. The greatest survivors have lasted billions of years. Humans? Not so much.

This hour, On Point: Lessons on evolution, life and time from the planet’s great survivors.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Richard Fortey, a senior paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London. He’s the author of the new book Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms: The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind.

C-Segment: Viola Davis at Providence College

You can find a transcript here.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “Fortey’s dozen or so subjects have survived the many cataclysms the planet has thrown at them over the past 450 million years.”

Video: My Favorite Trilobite

Check out this video of Richard Fortey talking about his favorite fossil.

Video: BBC Series “Survivors”

Richard Fortey takes a look at Musk Ox in this special.

Video: BBC Series “Survivors”

Richard Fortey takes a look at horseshoe crabs in this special.

Excerpt: Survivors

Use the navigation bar at the bottom of this frame to reformat the excerpt to best suit your reading experience.

Playlist

“I am a Paleontologist” by They Might Be Giants

“Survivor”  by Destiny’s Child

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