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NCPR News Staff: Natural Selections

Stories filed by Natural Selections

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A pair of ravens. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/dougbrown47/8435746289/">Doug Brown</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A pair of ravens. Photo: Doug Brown, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

How do you tell a raven from a crow?

Ravens were once a rarity in the North Country, but now they are becoming a common sight. They have a similar appearance to crows, but if you see the two birds together the difference is obvious. For one thing, ravens are big. For another, crows caw, while the cry of a raven is more of a croak.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss other ways to tell the two apart, why ravens became a scarce presence in recent times, and why they might be making a comeback now.  Go to full article
Yellow perch. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_perch#mediaviewer/File:YellowPerch.jpg">Eugene Zelenko</a>, released to public domain
Yellow perch. Photo: Eugene Zelenko, released to public domain

Yellow perch, Adirondack natives after all

For decades, Adirondack resource managers have blamed the yellow perch for the decline of heritage trout strains, believing that perch were introduced to Adirondack waters in recent times and have been displacing the native strains from their historic habitat.

But lake sediment core samples taken by Curt Stager and his students at Paul Smiths College yield DNA evidence showing that trout have been co-existing with perch for at least 2,000 years there. While perch are aggressive competitors and native trout are in decline, the reason for the change in balance likely lies in other factors yet to be determined.  Go to full article
Brown cricket in Hawaii, where some have "learned" to keep it quiet to avoid a predatory fly. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/wahiawaboy/200849410/">Dean</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Brown cricket in Hawaii, where some have "learned" to keep it quiet to avoid a predatory fly. Photo: Dean, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

What happens if you press "reset" on evolution?

When species move into a new habitat, some of the "tricks" their genes have learned no longer work to help them thrive. Some species will pick up new tricks--sometimes the same new trick more than once--and some will fail to adapt.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager look at silent crickets and flightless birds.  Go to full article
Reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina) is actually a lichen. Photo: <a href="http://mushroomobserver.org/image/show_image/205412">Jason Hollinger</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina) is actually a lichen. Photo: Jason Hollinger, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Lichens: living on next to nothing

What we call reindeer moss is nothing of the kind. It's not even a plant; it's a lichen. Lichens, which account for half of the natural nitrogen fertilizer used by plants and animals, are a combination of a fungus colony with algae and cyanobacteria that can live on practically nothing--dust, pollen, rain and snow.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about nature's original minimalists.  Go to full article

Natural deceptions: crime (and punishment) among animals and plants

Social primates are supposed to share when they find food, but some will cheat. If they are caught, the group will punish them. Some plants and fungi use a kind of barter system to swap nutrients, and some of them will also cheat. But they risk being caught and cut off.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager look at crime and punishment in the natural world.  Go to full article
If you want the feeder to yourself, there's nothing like being able to imitate a hawk. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/57974696@N00/8015491794/">pwhellen</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
If you want the feeder to yourself, there's nothing like being able to imitate a hawk. Photo: pwhellen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: natural deceptions

Birds and other creatures have a sly side and will use deceptive communications to create an advantage for themselves in finding food and finding mates. Blue jays can imitate the sound of a hawk, scaring other species away from the feeder. Some birds mimic the alarm cries of other species, making them think that another of their kind is warning them about a predator.

But they can't pull the trick too often. "Crying wolf" has the same consequences in the animal world as it does in the fairy tale. Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss the "tricksy" side of birds, and of cuttlefish.  Go to full article
Nylanderia pubens, the tawny crazy ant (worker variety). Photo: <a href="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d4/Nylanderia_pubens_worker.png">Daniel Mietchen</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Nylanderia pubens, the tawny crazy ant (worker variety). Photo: Daniel Mietchen, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

The tawny crazy ant is coming to America

What can take on the big agressive poisonous fire ants that invaded the U.S. decades ago? The tawny crazy ant, also an import from South America. This new "superorganism" is immune to fire ant poison, and they are displacing the previous invaders.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss a new addition to the invasive species list.  Go to full article
Male indigo bunting. Photo: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/kristi_decourcy/7539738334/">Kristi</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Male indigo bunting. Photo: Kristi, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Well-dressed birds of the North Country

While the North Country is not exactly the tropics, we do have our share of exotically-colored birds. Blue creatures, for example, are rare in nature but we have the bluebird, the blue jay and the indigo bunting.

Then there are the goldfinches and the cardinals, the ruby-throated hummingbird and the oriole. Martha Foley and Curt Stager celebrate a little of the local color in colder climes.  Go to full article
This is how small a deer tick is. Photo: <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tick_male_size_comparison_%28aka%29.jpg">Andre Karwath</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
This is how small a deer tick is. Photo: Andre Karwath, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Deer ticks: How they get on you, how to get them off

Spring and early summer is the prime time of year for encounters with deer ticks, carriers of the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. While still uncommon in the Adirondack upcountry, deer ticks are plentiful in the North Country lowlands.

They're hard to see, and hard to remove safely. But not impossible. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about the life cycle of the deer tick, and practical ways to minimize exposure to Lyme disease.  Go to full article
Lamprey control aims at eradicating them in the larva stage (in hand) before they grow into toothy adults (inset) Photo: Sarah Harris
Lamprey control aims at eradicating them in the larva stage (in hand) before they grow into toothy adults (inset) Photo: Sarah Harris

Natural Selections: Lampreys

Lampreys - are they fish or eel? Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about this jawless fish with a head full of teeth and a sucking mouth.  Go to full article

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