Natural Selections

Natural Selections

From NCPR

Conversations about the natural world with Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley, from member-supported North Country Public RadioMore from Natural Selections »

Most Recent Episodes

How are pencil leads and diamonds made from the same stuff?

Pencil leads and diamonds are chemically identical; the difference is in the crystal structure. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager talk about carbon crystals, and what it take to form a natural diamond.

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5:02
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Daddy Long Legs: not quite a spider

This familiar household "spider" is not a spider, but an ancient near relative in the arachnid family. Martha Foley and Curt stager discuss its characteristics, and how it differs from other creepy crawlies.

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What makes a new species?

What draws the line between one species and another? Scientists believe new species diverge when mutations occur that make it impossible to interbreed. Sometimes the mutation is very small. A case in point is humans and chimpanzees. Curt Stager told Martha Foley the key difference came when two short chromosomes in the chimp joined to form one long chromosome in humans.

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5:20
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Can Adirondack lake trout survive climate change?

Lake trout require a lot of cold oxygenated water to survive. Lakes in the Adirondacks are at the southern edge of their natural range. While about 100 lakes and ponds there are still home to lake trout, even a small increase in temperature could sharply cut that number. Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss the long-term prospects of a signature Adirondack aquatic species.

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4:57
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Are your tonsils as useless as they seem?

Your tonsils, when infected, may be useful to doctors in keeping up their bottom line, and to popsicle vendors in providing the means to soothe recovering children. But it seems they do also have a use, when healthy, as part of the front line of the human immune system. Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss an oft-removed portion of the human anatomy.

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4:59
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Nature journals put the history in natural history

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?

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5:43
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Fun and games when it's way too cold

In some places, winter is just too long to ignore. Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley explore some ways to have fun in extreme cold, everything from throwing hot water up into the air to guessing the temperature by the facial-hair scale.

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5:48
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Just how individual are animals?

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.

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A new neighbor in the north: fish crows

There&rsquo;s a new crow in the neighborhood! "Fish crows" look an awful lot like our regular crows, but they&rsquo;re new to New York State and moving north.Martha Foley and Curt Stager share the scoop on the life and habits of the immigrant species.

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5:50
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How do electric eels use their "juice"?

Aside from their properties as biological dynamos, electric eels have other peculiarities&mdash;they are not true eels, but are a kind of fish&mdash;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.

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