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
This bird likes livers, kidneys, entrails — anything it can pluck that's freshly dead. But what if you served it ... a painting?
 
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.
 
The Smithsonian is set to unpack something it's never had before: a rare, nearly complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. It's a gift from a Montana museum that says this T. rex deserves to be famous.
 
A 325 million-year-old fossil find shows that the gill structures of modern sharks are actually quite different from their ancient ancestors.
 
Curators say they'll use the big grant from Boeing to better highlight how exploratory flight — from the Spirit of St. Louis to the <em></em>Starship Enterprise — has transformed the world.
 
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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 Recent Natural Selections programs
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Natural Selections: "A Field Guide to Bacteria"

Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss Betsey Dexter Dyer's book, A Field Guide to Bacteria, and the distinctive traits of individual bacteria that are visible to the naked eye.  Go to full article
Myxobacteria detect surrounding cells in a process known as quorum sensing, migrate toward each other, and aggregate to form fruiting bodies up to 500 micrometres long. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Myxococcus_xanthus.png">Ayacop</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Myxobacteria detect surrounding cells in a process known as quorum sensing, migrate toward each other, and aggregate to form fruiting bodies up to 500 micrometres long. Photo: Ayacop, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Bacterial "quorums"

Bacteria have an awareness of when they are part of a large population, and change their behavior as a result. In the sea, bioluminescence is governed by this phenomena, known as "quorum-sensing." In the body, it may trigger the disease-causing effects of large infections. Martha Foley and Curt Stager get together with microbial crowds.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bluestardrop/4574604134/">Andrea Mucelli</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Andrea Mucelli, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Elders

Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about the role of individuals once they are past fertility. Elders help hold communities together by acting as the living histories and resource libraries.  Go to full article
The striking colors in this peacock feather come from irridescence, not pigments. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/9422878@N08/7557113322/">Bill Gracey</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
The striking colors in this peacock feather come from irridescence, not pigments. Photo: Bill Gracey, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Feathers and irridescence

Most color in nature is the result of pigments that reflect a particular wavelength of light, but some of nature's brightest offerings are created by physical structures within skin, scales and feathers that scattter and interfere with light.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about one of nature's flashier displays--irridescent bird feathers.  Go to full article
Chipmunk with attitude. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/wainwright/234922450/">Chrissy Wainwright</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Chipmunk with attitude. Photo: Chrissy Wainwright, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Bold Chipmunks

Chipmunks aren't exactly shy--their metabolism runs too high to turn down a free lunch--but neither are they social among themselves, once beyond the nest. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about this aggressively territorial backyard fixture.  Go to full article
People have wondered how colors work for a long time, as shown by <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Boutet_1708_color_circles.jpg">Claude Boutet's 7-color and 12-color color circles</a>, from a publication in 1708.
People have wondered how colors work for a long time, as shown by Claude Boutet's 7-color and 12-color color circles, from a publication in 1708.

Natural Selections: Seeing Colors

The notion that all colors mixed together make white can be disputed by any child who has made a stew of his paint set, but that is what a prism shows us. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley talk about colors, and how they differ to different eyes.  Go to full article
<em>Elysia chlorotica</em> is a photosynthetic slug that uses chloroplasts from the algae it eats to make energy from sunlight. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elysia_chlorotica_%281%29.jpg">Patrick Krug</a>, Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk
Elysia chlorotica is a photosynthetic slug that uses chloroplasts from the algae it eats to make energy from sunlight. Photo: Patrick Krug, Cataloging Diversity in the Sacoglossa LifeDesk

Natural Selections: "Alternative" animals

In general, plants make food from sunlight, and animals fuel themselves by "burning" oxygen. But some animals think outside the box.

Curt stager and Martha Foley look at a photosynthetic slug that hijacks the genetic machinery of the algae in its diet, and at a jellyfish that needs no oxygen, burning the alternative fuels of hydrogen and sulphur.  Go to full article
A pigeon's eye view from the Empire State Building. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/yuan2003/1187720684/">Richard Yuan</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A pigeon's eye view from the Empire State Building. Photo: Richard Yuan, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: more on pigeons

The ubiquitous bird of cities and towns was designed for a different environment. The pigeon's distinctive style of flight is adapted for maneuverability in tight places--near vertical takeoffs and quick changes of direction. This adaptation to cliff and mountainside environments serves them well among our urban cliff dwellings. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss.  Go to full article
Originally a cliff-nesting species, pigeons have easily adapted to the man-made cliffs of urban environments. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/zayzayem/3620661261/">Michael Zimmer</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Originally a cliff-nesting species, pigeons have easily adapted to the man-made cliffs of urban environments. Photo: Michael Zimmer, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Pigeons and doves

Pigeons and doves, both domestic and feral, are the same species. Today's urban environment mimics their original favored habitat, seaside cliffs in Europe and Asia.

Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss this commonest bird companion in densely settled areas.  Go to full article
Spotted hyena in Kenya. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vidyo/6136697677/">Ray Morris</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Spotted hyena in Kenya. Photo: Ray Morris, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Hyenas

Martha Foley wonders, "Is there a more maligned and mischaracterized animal than the Hyena?" Dr. Curt Stager, a hyena fan, gives the real lowdown on this social animal.  Go to full article

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