Current Weather
The Spy FM

Time Travel And Photos Of Earth’s ‘Oldest’ Animals

Filed by KOSU News in Science.
February 9, 2012

Photographer Piotr Naskrecki presented a hypothetical: “If someone said, ‘We have a dinosaur in Central Africa!’ — would you consider that worthy of conservation? If so, why?”

That was his way of putting me in place for asking why anyone would care about a creepy grasshopper in South Africa.

Apples and oranges, in a way, but he’s making a point: That grasshopper is something like a living artifact, he explained; it has adapted for modern times, but it carries valuable information about Earth’s past. Maybe it’s not as cool as a dinosaur, but it’s still worthy of attention, he says.

“It’s very hard to explain why we should care,” he admits, “and to be completely honest, there isn’t a very good answer.”

Naskrecki is a research associate and entomologist at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard. He’s also a photographer and has a whole book of critters and creatures you might never think twice about. It’s called Relics: Travels in Nature’s Time Machine.

“Relict organisms,” Naskrecki writes in the introduction, “which I prefer to call simply ‘relics’ … are often the last carriers of genes that have otherwise disappeared from the world’s gene pool.”

Take horseshoe crabs, for example. “It was already a living fossil when the dinosaurs first appeared,” Naskrecki says excitedly on the phone. “They go back 450 million years. … And the thing is that they have changed so little. It’s like a peephole into the Jurassic — or even earlier.”

But of the hundreds of horseshoe crab species that used to exist, there now remain only four, says Naskrecki, “and they are declining very fast.”

Born in Poland, Naskrecki recalls an early obsession with natural history, which started with the discovery of a fossil. And he has been at it — doggedly — ever since. He travels the world doing research and documenting his findings.

“I am a scientist first, photographer and writer second,” he says. “I recognize how powerful the tool of photography is in conservation.” [Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

6AM to 7AM On Being

On Being

On Being engages listeners across the spectrum of belief and non-belief in conversation about life's deepest questions. From autism to the ethics of torture, Krista and her guests reach beyond the headlines to probe faith and meaning, ethics and new ways of being, amidst the political, ecological, economic, cultural and technological shifts that define 21st century life.

Listen Live Now!

8AM to 10AM Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition

Weekend Edition Sunday premiered on January 18, 1987, and was the last of NPR's major newsmagazines to hit air. Since then, Weekend Edition Sunday has covered newsmakers and artists, scientists and politicans, music makers of all kinds, writers, thinkers, theologians and all manner of news events.

View the program guide!

9AM to 10PM Sound Opinions

Sound Opinions

Take two nationally respected rock critics, the latest music news, personal commentary, and exclusive interviews and performances, add a huge pile of records old and new, and the result is Sound Opinions-the world's only rock and roll talk show.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center