Natural Selections podcast
Closet nemesis: the clothes moth01/22/15
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...
Bats can sing, too!
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.
Are porcupine quills like hairs or like feathers?
Porcupine quills are hollow, like feathers, and are made from the same material, but then so are hairs, and fingernails, and claws and scales. The quill is a unique adaptation of one of nature's commonest substances and it varies even among...
Why does the moon look bigger when it's on the horizon?
Why does the moon look bigger when it's on the horizon, than it does when it is high in the sky? Curt Stager shoots down all of Martha Foley's theories.There are a couple ways it could be a trick of the mind, but why then doesn't it work all the time?...
Why is the sky blue?
Martha Foley poses the classic child's question. According to Dr. Curt Stager, the answer lies in the composition of the atmosphere, and in the refractive qualities of different wavelengths of light.
The Adirondacks in 300 years, part 1
Dr. Curt Stager and Martha Foley gaze into the crystal ball to imagine the Adirondack Park in 300 years. The effects of invasive species may be more noticeable than those of global warming. Three of the commonest trees face disease threats ??? most...
Shy and rare: the softshell turtles of Lake Champlain
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...
Are there really no snakes in Ireland?
Were there really no snakes before St. Patrick showed up? Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager ponder this and other questions. They explain that there are, in fact, places with no native snakes, particularly isolated places like New Zealand and Greenland.
Natural Selections: Seagulls
Where do all the seagulls come from? 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.
Pointier eggs and ultraviolet colors help some birds survive
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...
Why are bird eggs different colors?
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...
Birds get a new family tree
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...
Snapping turtles: not your little pet shop friend
The Eastern Snapping Turtle can reach a size of three feet long and weigh 50 pounds. Martha Foley and Curt Stager introduce us to this large and testy reptile found throughout the eastern United States.
Do you hear the same thing as I hear?
Do we all hear the same things? Is middle-C on a piano the same for you as it is for someone else? Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager look at how we hear what we hear.
What happened to North America's really big animals?
Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager continue a discussion of animal extinction that began with a look at the book The Ghosts of Evolution by Connie Barlow.Before the last Ice Age, North America was more like Africa is today and contained many species of...
"Ghosts of Evolution" left their food plants behind
There are plants that produce fruits that are too large for anything in their habitat to eat, and other common fruits that nothing seems to eat. The book "Ghosts of Evolution" speculates that those animals went extinct?large mammals like the mammoth...
Some birds that "mate for life" still mess around
Birds may have "social mates" that they are always seen with, but may also have breeding partners who are not the same. Some species appear to be truly faithful to social mates, but they are the minority of species that we think of of monogamous....
What could be worse than the disaster that wiped out the dinosaurs?
A really big asteroid is believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. But that great die-off pales in comparison to the Permian extinction event around 250 million years ago. More than 80% of ocean species and about 70% of land...
Wood ants reshape the mound to match the weather
Wood ant colonies create noticeable hummocks in clearings and fields. The elaborate structures create a temperate micro-climate ideal for protecting larvae, the queen and her workers. And they are constantly "renovating" to match the weather. Dr. Curt...
What can fish do when the water goes away?
From walking catfish to "snakeheads" to species of killifish, some fish actually survive outside of water for a surprising length of time.Martha Foley and Dr. Curt Stager discuss the old cliche "like a fish out of water," and about the strategies some...
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