Natural Selections

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About
Natural Selections

On Natural Selections each week, join a short conversation on the natural world. Topics range from evolutionary biology to geology and wildlife, from climate science to animal and human behavior.

Ellen Rocco
The program is hosted by NCPR news director Martha Foley joined by naturalist Dr. Curt Stager of Paul Smith's College.

Support for Natural Selections is provided by the Glenn and Carol Pearsall Adirondack Foundation, dedicated to improving the quality of life for year-round residents of the Adirondack Park, and by Paul Smith's, the College of the Adirondacks.

New Book: Deep Future

"The course we take in the coming decades will affect not just the next hundred years, but the next hundred thousand years of life on this planet." --Curt Stager

Deep Future
In bookstores now

Order at: Amazon | Borders
Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Powell's Books
And please remember your local independent booksellers. Find one near you.

 

Nature features

Curt Stager on On Point

Curt StagerListen to Dr. Curt Stager as the guest on On Point, 3/24/11, talking about his new book, Deep Future: the Next 100,000 Years of Life on Earth.

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Natural History
Maybe it was messier than we thought, some scientists now say. Big brains, long legs and long childhoods may have evolved piecemeal in different spots, in response to frequent swings in climate.
 
Passenger pigeons used to be the most abundant bird in North America. But hunters drove them to extinction, and by 1914, only one was left. A century later, that pigeon, named Martha, is on exhibit.
 
This bird likes livers, kidneys, entrails — anything it can pluck that's freshly dead. But what if you served it ... a painting?
 
Museums are filled with dead insects, birds, fish, mammals and reptiles meticulously gathered worldwide in the name of scientific discovery. But some researchers now say scientists should think twice.
 
A secretive, nocturnal species that lives on a remote island off the coast of Mexico had not been spotted since 1936. Scientists have concluded it is genetically distinct from mainland neighbors.
 
more science news from NPR

Natural Selections with hosts Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager airs Thursday mornings during The Eight O'Clock Hour.

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Photo: <a href="http://capl.washjeff.edu/2/l/4348.jpg">Washington & Jefferson College</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Washington & Jefferson College, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Sense of smell

Humans aren't naturals at tracking smells like dogs, but they can, in fact, track by scent just like dogs. The main difference is humans get better with practice. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about people's sense of smell.  Go to full article
Ripples in sand: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/30302870@N08/2839605958/">Markles55</a>, and in snow: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/n031/3285104971/">Clear Inner Vision</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Ripples in sand: Markles55, and in snow: Clear Inner Vision, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

No, the North Country's not the coldest place on earth

Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss the hottest and coldest places on earth. Death Valley is no longer the hottest. Libya takes (or bakes) the cake these days. The lowest, as you would expect, is in Antarctica. How cold? You don't want to know.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/hobgadlng/11393404204/">Tee La Rosa</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved<br />
Photo: Tee La Rosa, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

You're a moth: How do you defend yourself?

The battle for survival among insects is not always carried out with mandible and stinger. This branch of the animal kingdom also employs chemical warfare. Some moths and butterflies store plant poisons in their bodies that make them so toxic, spiders will cut them loose from their webs. Some spiders make their webs and the food stored within deadly to ants and some create toxic "veils" to protect their mates while they are vulnerable. Martha Foley and Paul Smith's College biologist Curt Stager explore the arsenal of the natural world.  Go to full article
Opossum with "babies on board," near Brier Hill, NY. Archive Photo of the Day 6/26/13: Bruce Dana
Opossum with "babies on board," near Brier Hill, NY. Archive Photo of the Day 6/26/13: Bruce Dana

Why Opossums are coming to the North Country, and why they look like they're made from spare parts

Opossums may be thought of as a southern animal, but they are becoming more common in the North Country as they expand their range north and west. They are the only marsupial, or pouched mammal, in North America.

Martha Foley tells Curt Stager that they look a little weird, as if they were made from parts of other animals: the tail of a rat, the pouch of a kangaroo, funny little hands.  Go to full article
A turtle under the ice. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/90434877@N00/3206736457/">Richard Due</a>. Creative COmmons, some rights reserved
A turtle under the ice. Photo: Richard Due. Creative COmmons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: How do turtles survive a winter underwater?

Unlike frogs, turtles don't hibernate through the winter. In fact, sometimes you can see snappers and other species moving around under the ice. While their metabolism runs at very low ebb in the cold, they remain alert to changes in light and temperature that signal the coming spring.

How do they survive without oxygen? As Paul Smiths College biologist Curt Stager tells Martha Foley, they get energy from their body tissues, and their shells neutralize the resulting lactic acid build-up.  Go to full article
Flying Squirrel. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/errrrrrrrrika/3150513527/">errrrrrrrrika</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Flying Squirrel. Photo: errrrrrrrrika, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Flying squirrels

Rarely seen during the day, flying squirrels don't actually fly, but use flaps of skin that connect their fore and hind legs that enable them to glide up to a hundred feet, between trees and from tree to ground.

Unlike their more earthbound cousins, they do not hibernate in the winter. And their preferred diet is lichens and mushrooms, rather than nuts and cones.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="ww.flickr.com/photos/90891744@N00/2313038401/">GP(MPK)</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: GP(MPK), Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Cryoseisms and other sounds of ice

One of the features of a hard winter can be loud spooky booming noises. These may be cryoseisms or "icequakes," caused when masses of ice expand and contract until they reach a breaking point. The sound signals the release of large amounts of energy.

Lake ice can also make alarming noises; some expert skaters can accurately estimate the thickness of the ice from the pitch of the noise. Ice expansion within trees and within homes can also add to winter jitters. Martha Foley and Curt Stager listen to the winter.  Go to full article
Erika Edgley ice skating on Lower Cascade Lake. Archive Photo of the Day: Matthew Hobart
Erika Edgley ice skating on Lower Cascade Lake. Archive Photo of the Day: Matthew Hobart

Natural Selections: Ice over time

Fresh ice, sometimes called black ice, can be nice and clear and great for skating, but after a while ice gets kind of funky. Freezes and thaws and snowfalls take their toll on ice, creating white ice, which contains a lot of trapped air and gases. Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about how the ice evolves over the season.  Go to full article
Antarctica as seen by the Earth Observatory mission. Photo: <a href="http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/36000/36839/Antarctica_AMO_2009027_lrg.jpg">NASA</a>
Antarctica as seen by the Earth Observatory mission. Photo: NASA

Natural Selections: The other Polar Vortex

While much of this winter's extreme weather has been blamed on polar vortex weather systems reaching farther south into North America, there is a another polar vortex in the Antarctic.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about the weather at the bottom of the world, and how it differs from weather patterns at the top of the world.  Go to full article
A polar vortex centered over Maine, 1/21/85. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Polarvortexjan211985.jpg">National Meteorological Center</a>, Camp Springs, MD
A polar vortex centered over Maine, 1/21/85. Photo: National Meteorological Center, Camp Springs, MD

Natural Selections: Polar vortex

The meteorological term "polar vortex" has a dramatic and ominous sound--the title of a disaster movie, maybe. But it is a just pattern of winds that is with us all the time and played a big role in recent deep cold snaps. They occur when the southern edge of this weather system pushes farther south than usual. Martha Foley and Curt Stager take a little of the hype out of this winter's weather buzz-word.  Go to full article

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