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Preview: Natural Selections Podcast

Natural Selections: Conversations about the natural world with Dr. Curt Stager and Matha Foley

Latest North Country Public Radio regional news by topic. Topic=natselect.

Copyright: ℗ & © 2018, North Country Public Radio

Cats are liquids, except when not

Thu, 18 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500

(Jan 18, 2018) A recent article in Science magazine highlighted the work of a French scientist who was the recipient of a 2017 Ig Nobel Prize. He posited that because cats can fill up the shape of whatever container they are put in, they must be liquid. [full story]

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Are your tonsils as useless as they seem?

Thu, 11 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500

(Jan 11, 2018) When infected, your tonsils may be useful to doctors to keep up their bottom line, and to Popsicle vendors to provide the means to soothe recovering children. But when healthy, they also have a use as part of the front-line in the human immune system.Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss an oft-removed portion of the human anatomy. [full story]

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Nature journals put the history in natural history

Thu, 04 Jan 2018 00:00:00 -0500

(Jan 4, 2018) Martha Foley has never succeeded in keeping a nature journal long-term, but Curt Stager finds them invaluable in his work. He records his observations on paper, but also finds great data through researching the journals of past observers, from Samuel de Champlain to Thomas Jefferson, to ordinary little-known North Country folk.His hint - always put it on paper. Whatever became of all that stuff on your floppy diskettes? [full story]

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Just how individual are animals?

Thu, 28 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Dec 28, 2017) We tend to think that dogs do this, and that cats do that. We think animal species have a recognizable set of behaviors that define the nature of their kind. But what about individual animals? Does each have something we could understand as a unique personality?Curt Stager said his cat is not like Martha Foley's cat. But what about individual birds, or even insects?Researchers say they can identify individuality even in some of the simplest creatures. [full story]

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A new neighbor in the north: fish crows

Thu, 21 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Dec 21, 2017) There is a new crow in the neighborhood! "Fish crows" aren't actually new to New York State, but they are increasing in numbers, and moving north from waterway to waterway.Martha Foley and Curt Stager share the scoop on their life and habits. [full story]

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How do electric eels use their "juice"?

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Dec 14, 2017) Aside from their properties as biological dynamos, electric eels have other peculiarities; they are not true eels, but are a kind of fish - and a kind of fish that needs to breathe air. The South American predator of river bottoms can reach 40 pounds in size and deliver a fatal shock to humans.They use electricity for a number of purposes other than shocking their prey, as a navigation aid, to communicate with others of its kind and to detect unmoving prey by making its muscles twitch.Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss the life cycle of a shocking species. [full story]

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Closet nemesis: the clothes moth

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Dec 7, 2017) Keratin, the substance wool, hair, and feathers are made from, makes a pretty thin diet, but the clothes moth has been dogging humanity's closets and drawers for hundreds of years, unravelling the work of generations of knitters and weavers to feed its larvae.Martha has a personal beef with the moth and talks with Curt Stager about the life cycle of the moth, and how to fight its ruinous effects. [full story]

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Bats can sing, too!

Thu, 30 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Nov 30, 2017) Humans, birds, and whales are not the only creatures who can sing. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss recent research that uncovered bats also use learned songs to communicate. [full story]

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Shy and rare: the softshell turtles of Lake Champlain

Thu, 23 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Nov 23, 2017) The eastern spiny softshell turtle is rare in the north, but a small population lives at the top of Lake Champlain. Shyer than their armored cousins, the encroachment of human activities is making it harder for them to breed.Martha Foley and Paul Smiths College naturalist Dr. Curt Stager discuss this uncommon holdover from the days of the dinosaurs. [full story]

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Are there really no snakes in Ireland?

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Nov 16, 2017) Were there really no snakes in Ireland before St. Patrick showed up? Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager ponder this and other questions. They explained there are in fact, places with no native snakes, particularly isolated places like New Zealand and Greenland. [full story]

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Where did all the seagulls come from?

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

(Nov 9, 2017) Martha Foley talks with Dr. Curt Stager about the population boom of seagulls in the last few decades, particularly ring-billed gulls found in the northeastern United States and the Great Lakes region. [full story]

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Pointier eggs and ultraviolet colors help some birds survive

Thu, 02 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Nov 2, 2017) This week, Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager continue their discussion about eggs, exploring the color and shape of birds' eggshells, from green, white, and brown to pointy and ovoid.Some variations in shape and size are just that, variations, but some have also appear to have survival value for their respective species. [full story]

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Why are bird eggs different colors?

Thu, 26 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Oct 26, 2017) Why are bird eggs different colors? According to Dr. Curt Stager most of them start out white. Colors come later in development. Glands in the oviduct deposit color onto the eggs as they pass through to be laid. Speckled eggs are actually a little stronger than unspeckled ones. Emu eggs are almost black and some species have metallic colors. Individual variations in eggs of the same species can help parents return to the right nest.Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about why birds' eggs look the way they do. [full story]

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Strange relations: Birds get a whole new family tree

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Oct 19, 2017) Whippoorwills and hummingbirds are close kin. And penguins, who only walk and swim, are cousins to the albatross which only flies. Who knew? A new classification system for birds looks at their genetics as well as their anatomy.Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley discuss bird evolution. [full story]

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How do you tell a raven from a crow?

Thu, 12 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Oct 12, 2017) 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. [full story]

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Yellow perch - Adirondack natives after all

Thu, 05 Oct 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Oct 5, 2017) 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. [full story]

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What happens if you press "reset" on evolution?

Thu, 28 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Sep 28, 2017) 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. [full story]

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How lichens live on next to nothing

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Sep 21, 2017) 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. [full story]

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

Thu, 14 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Sep 14, 2017) 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. [full story]

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Natural Selections: natural deceptions

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 00:00:00 -0400

(Sep 7, 2017) 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. [full story]

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