Photo by: Purwo Kuncoro

Origin Stories podcast year in review

The Leakey Foundation’s Origin Stories podcast turned six years old in 2021! We produced 10 episodes and reached several important milestones this year. Here’s a look back at our year in podcasting.

First, the milestones:

• We surpassed 1,000,000 downloads!

• We were consistently in the top 50 podcasts in our category on the Apple Podcasts charts.

• Producer Ray Pang joined our team.

Origin Stories 2021 Episodes

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In January, archaeologist and author Rebecca Wragg Sykes took us into the world of our Neanderthal cousins and shared stories from her amazing bestselling book, Kindred.

Listen to “Understanding Neanderthals”
March guest Dr. Zarin Machanda (l) with February guest Dr. Tanya Smith at work on a research project in the Kibale National Park in Uganda.

In February, Leakey Foundation grantee Tanya Smith told us about the hidden life stories recorded in your teeth. She shared the story of her work that reconstructed the lives of two Neanderthal children by reading the tiny lines in their teeth. This episode will change the way you think about your teeth.

Listen to “The Teeth Remember”

In March, Leakey Foundation grantee Zarin Machanda talked about what it’s like to study an endangered species. She shared stories from her amazing work as co-director of the Kibale Chimpanzee Project.

Listen to “How to Study an Endangered Species”
Dr. Horacio de la Iglesia fitting a special watch-like sensor to measure sleep.

In May, we spoke with Leakey Foundation grantee Horacio de la Iglesia, a neurobiologist who’s on a quest to understand how patterns of human sleep evolved. His new research shows an unexpected connection between sleep and the cycles of the moon.

Listen to “Sleep and the Moon”
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In June, we looked at the widely-held idea known as the “obstetrical dilemma”–a hypothesis that explains why babies are so helpless, and why childbirth is so difficult for humans compared to other animals. Leakey Foundation grantees Holly Dunsworth and Anna Warrener described their epic search for the evidence behind the “obstetrical dilemma.” which is an idea that babies are born early so they can fit through the mother’s pelvis, which can’t get any bigger because then women wouldn’t be able to walk well.

Listen to “The Obstetrical Dilemma”
Male white-faced capuchin monkey uses a stone as a hammer on Jicarón Island in Panama’s Coiba National Park.
Credit: Brendan Barrett

In July, producer and scientist Kevin McLean took us to an island off the coast of Panama where an isolated group of monkeys has developed a creative way to survive in a challenging environment.

Listen to “Monkeys Get Creative”

In September, Leakey Foundation grantee Drew Best told us all about the amazing human ability to sweat and how this adaptation might be one of the key things that made us who we are today.

Listen to “Short and Sweat”

Photo by Alvan Nee on Unsplash

In October, contributor Neil Sandell told us the amazing story of our closest animal companion and the journey from wolf to dog. What do we know about how dogs began?

Listen to “Entre Chien et Loup: How Dogs Began”
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas at Camp Leakey with a mother and infant orangutan.

In November, we interviewed living legend and 19-time Leakey Foundation grantee Biruté Mary Galdikas, one of the founding mothers of primatology. She told the story of her 50-year-career studying and protecting orangutans in Borneo.

Listen to “Biruté Mary Galdikas: 50 Years with Orangutans”
This illustration by Chuang Zhao shows what the newly discovered fossil nicknamed “Dragon Man” may have looked like.

In December, we interviewed five Leakey Foundation grantees from different fields to hear about their favorite human origins research of 2021. This episode has five fun short stories from the year in science.

Listen to “Top Human Origins Discoveries of 2021”

Many thanks to Jeanne Newman, Camilla and George Smith, Diana McSherry and Patrick Poe, Lynn and Larry Schafran, and the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation for sponsoring the show this year.

We look forward to bringing you more Origin Stories in 2022! Click this link to subscribe!

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