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?
 
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.
 
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.
 
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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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
Lionesses love the mane. . . Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/digitalart/3240381175/">Art G</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Lionesses love the mane. . . Photo: Art G, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Lion Manes

Why would a heavy fur cape, like a lion's mane, be appropriate on a tropical savanna?

As with male fashion in humans, it appears the that the lionesses of the Serengeti like it--the thicker and darker, the better. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk hair.  Go to full article
Gecko walking on the wall of a glass enclosure. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithmarshall/3934863305/">Keith Marshall</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved. Inset: microstructure of Gecko toe, by <a href="">Douglasy</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.
Gecko walking on the wall of a glass enclosure. Photo: Keith Marshall, Creative Commons, some rights reserved. Inset: microstructure of Gecko toe, by Douglasy, Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Natural Selections: Gecko feet

Geckos have a remarkable ability to run up vertical surfaces, and even across ceilings. But their feet do not form suction cups, nor are they sticky with any kind of secreted glue. Dr. Curt Stager tells Martha Foley the secret of the lizard's gravity-defying feet, which has as much to with atomic physics as biology.  Go to full article
Diagram of a mitchondrion. Graphic: <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Mitochondrion_mini.svg">Kelvinsong</a>, released to the public domain
Diagram of a mitchondrion. Graphic: Kelvinsong, released to the public domain

Natural Selections: Mitochondria

Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley explore the role of mitocondria--components that burn food molecules and produce energy--in cells.  Go to full article
Kid's around a life-size model of a whale heart at the Carnegie Museum. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nosuchuser/4152475705">feral godmother</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Kid's around a life-size model of a whale heart at the Carnegie Museum. Photo: feral godmother, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Animal hearts

From worms to whales, most creatures have hearts. In a worm it's a simple tube, in a whale it can pump 60 gallons of blood per minute.

Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss the variety of hearts in the animal kingdom.  Go to full article
Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/chrishunkeler/7760119788/">Chris Hunkeler</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: Chris Hunkeler, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Natural Selections: Laughter

What is laughter? Is it exclusive to humans? Is it different for women and men? Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss "the best medicine."  Go to full article

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