Breaking Down Biology at the Movies

Ever seen a movie monster burst onto screen and wondered “hang on, how does that thing breed”? Or seen a fictional world full of strange ecosystems and wanted to know how they evolved? Or even just seen a big old predator hunt down humans one by one and asked yourself if they’d ever behave like that in real life?

Being an ecologist who loves a trip to the movies, these are questions that are always running through my head whenever I’m sitting down to watch a film. So alongside fellow EcoMass writer Dr. Adam Hasik, a disease ecologist from the University of Arkansas, Libby Young, a fiction writer at Short Story Soup, and our veterinarian friend Dave, I sit down every week and discuss the biology of different movie monsters.

The product is the podcast Cinematica Animalia, which you can find on Soundcloud, Spotify, and any decent podcast app. Below I’ve linked some of my favourite episodes from this season.

The Phantom Science (Star Wars: The Phantom Menace)

We were joined by Danielle Crowley and Aife Kearns-McHugh of the Movie AFISHianados podcast to talk about the freshwater beasties on display in one of the most infamous Star Wars films. Aife and Dani are hilarity personified, and between them know more about fish than is healthy.

Wolf Fight Night (The Grey)

The reintroduction of wolves is a hot topic in the Nordics, often making it into parliament. In general wolves get a bad rap, and while we can put some of that down to centuries-old big bad wolf tales, modern version like The Grey don’t help either. We talked about why this movie paints wolves in a very negative (and incredibly inaccurate) light.

Monkey Madness (King Kong)

Monkey Madness was actually a series of three podcasts we did earlier this year in the lead-up to the release of Godzilla vs. Kong. As well as 2005’s King Kong adaptation, we talked about the life of Diane Fossey as portrayed in the biopic Gorillas in the Mist, as well as Godzilla vs. Kong itself (which Adam in particular loved).


A fortnight ago we were lucky enough to have Dr. Kirsty McLeod of the Women in Ecology and Evolution podcast sit down with us and talk about 2018’s cosmic horror trip Annihilation. This was one of my all-time favourite episodes, so be sure to keep an eye out for it when it’s released next Thursday!

We’re always on the lookout for episode suggestions, so if you’d like to hear a favourite movie creature of yours discussed, be sure to get in touch, or just comment below! And if you do end up enjoying the podcast, be sure to leave a review, as it really helps.

Sam Perrin is a freshwater ecologist currently completing his PhD at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology who regrets nothing except perhaps having seen the movie Cats. You can read more about his research and the rest of the Ecology for the Masses writers here, see more of his work at Ecology for the Masses here, or follow him on Twitter here.

Title Image Credit: Mark Lorch, CC BY-NC 2.0, Image Cropped

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