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.
 
The Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., got its new <em>T. rex</em> just in time to close its fossil hall for five years of renovations — longer than some dinosaur fans have even been alive.
 
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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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
Hermit thrush. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Hermit_thrush_qmnonic.jpg">Matt MacGillivray</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Hermit thrush. Photo: Matt MacGillivray, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Hermit thrush

One of nature's most beautiful singers is the hermit thrush. The opposite of "good children," they are often heard but seldom seen. Martha Foley and Curt Stager talk about this elusive insectivore of northern forests.  Go to full article
Northern Flicker (red-shafted variety) feeding young. Photo: Larry Master, used with permission
Northern Flicker (red-shafted variety) feeding young. Photo: Larry Master, used with permission

Natural Selections: Northern Flicker

The Northern Flicker is one of the most recognizable birds. This distinctly-marked member of the woodpecker family, instead of browsing wood for their food like their relatives, digs for food in the ground. Martha Foley and Curt Stager explore its habits.  Go to full article
How humans inhale and exhale. Clip art: <a href="http://www.clipart.dk.co.uk/457/subject/Biology/Breathing">DK Images</a>
How humans inhale and exhale. Clip art: DK Images

Natural Selections: the evolution of breathing

All creatures breathe in some fashion, but how the job gets done has changed from fish to amphibian to reptile to mammal. Curt Stager and Martha Foley chart the evolution of animal respiration.  Go to full article
The garden-variety earthworm is a modern interloper in the northern forests. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Earthworm.jpg">Fir0002/Flagstaffotos</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
The garden-variety earthworm is a modern interloper in the northern forests. Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Invasive earthworms

Earthworms, friend to lawn and garden, are actually an invasive species in northern forests, which developed in the worm-free environment of retreating glaciers 10,000 years ago. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss their return, and the consequences for boreal soil, trees and wildflowers.  Go to full article
1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. Photo: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:MSH80_eruption_mount_st_helens_05-18-80-dramatic-edit.jpg">USGS</a>
1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens in Washington. Photo: USGS

Natural Selections: Predicting Volcanos

Database analysis shows that winter, in addition to its other woes, is volcano season. Martha Foley wonders why. Dr. Curt Stager points the finger at the Pacific Ocean, which piles water on the North American coast and lightens the load on Asia. The stress comes out it crustal acne.  Go to full article
A forested floodplain: Lousiana bayou along the Pearl River. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/99012321@N00/3499802982/">Josh Kellogg</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
A forested floodplain: Lousiana bayou along the Pearl River. Photo: Josh Kellogg, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Flood-plain forest restoration

Trying to put nature back the way we found it can be more complicated than just leaving things alone. Dr. Curt Stager talks with Martha Foley about attempts to restore "green tree reservoirs," flood-plain forests that have been reduced 80 percent in size by human encroachment.  Go to full article
A male Siamese Fighting Fish flaring at his reflection in a mirror. Photo: Maldeez via <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Betta_Fighting_Reflection.JPG">Wikimedia Commons</a>
A male Siamese Fighting Fish flaring at his reflection in a mirror. Photo: Maldeez via Wikimedia Commons

Natural Selections: Winners and Losers

Animals, like humans, keep an eye on their fellows, particularly when the action is hot. Siamese fighting fish who witness a conflict treat the winners and losers differently. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about nosiness in nature.  Go to full article

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