Archive for May, 2014

Wildlife: Evolving to Live in Caves

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Rare Toothcave Beetle

Rare Toothcave Beetle

This is Passport to Texas

Biologist, Ben Hutchins, studies animals that live full-time in cave environments, including a wide range of invertebrates.

07— Crickets, beetles, spiders, scorpions, harvestmen – that’s kind of like a Daddy Longlegs….

How and why these creatures evolved in dark, dank cave ecosystems is an area of active research. One theory: they’re relics of the past.

14— They’re leftover from a period of Texas history when it was cooler, more moist. In the Ice Age, these animals were widespread on the surface. As the climate changed, they became restricted to the cave environment.

Over time, these creatures physically adapted to their new surroundings. They lost their eyesight and pigmentation; their metabolisms slowed and their antennae elongated, among other adaptations. Biologists want to understand why.

23— Another [thing we want to know] is, why do we see in some places lots and lots of species such as in the Edward’s Aquifer, and in other places, we see very few – or almost none. So, some of our very dry caves farther west have much lower diversity. So, caves are an interesting laboratory to study what are the environmental controls that influence where biodiversity occurs.

Learn more about karst invertebrates on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Wildlife: Karst Invertebrates

Thursday, May 29th, 2014

Harvestman spider, Photo by: J. Krejca

Harvestman spider, Photo by: J. Krejca

This is Passport to Texas

In most ecosystems living plants are the foundation of the food web, but dark caves – which occur in a landscape known as karst – are not most ecosystems.

04— And because there’s no light, there’s no photosynthesis, so there aren’t any plants.

Biologist, Ben Hutchins, studies caves. More to the point, he studies invertebrates that live in them full-time.

08— Animals that live in karsts have had to have a lot of unique adaptations to deal with that lack of plant material.

Including evolving to survive on the droppings of other cave dwelling creatures, like cave crickets that leave the karst at night to forage on vegetation. In a way, full-time cave dwellers do eat vegetation – it’s just processed. Another adaptation is a much slower metabolism thus reducing their nutritional requirements. So who are these denizens of the dark?

21— Crickets, beetles, spiders, scorpions, harvestmen – that’s kind of like a Daddy Longlegs. Then, there’re all these aquatic species as well. A lot of people don’t know we have cave adapted catfish, salamanders. And then, all kinds of aquatic beetles, aquatic crustaceans… So, lots of interesting things in Texas. It’s an interesting place to study cave biology.

How did these invertebrates end up living inside caves? That’s an active area of study we explore with Ben Hutchins tomorrow.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Wildlife: Invertebrates

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Tarantula outside TPWD HQ in Austin, Texas

Tarantula outside TPWD HQ in Austin, Texas

This is Passport to Texas

What are invertebrates? The first thing you need to know is they vastly outnumber us humans.

08— Invertebrates are any animal that doesn’t have bones. So, most of the animals on the planet are invertebrates.

Think: insects, snails, worms, flies and all manner of boneless animal on land and in the sea. Biologist, Ben Hutchins has a soft spot for these spineless creatures.

09— As an invertebrate biologist, I’m interested in where these animals occur, why we find them where they are, and what are they doing on a day-to-day basis.

To a lot of us, invertebrates are creepy crawlies; the angst-producing members of the animal kingdom. Ben says good bad or otherwise – they all have their place.

18— A lot of these are economically important: they pollinate our plants, they pollinate our crops. Some are pests; they eat our plants and eat our crops. Some of them are parasites, and some of them have very interesting interactions with other animals. So, they play a really important role in the environment.

And there’s one class of invertebrates that’s captured Biologist Ben Hutchins imagination and we go underground to learn about them tomorrow.

We record our series at the Block House. Joel Block engineers our program.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Hunting/Food: Making Wild Game Jerky

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Larry Burrier with some homemade wild game jerky.

Larry Burrier with some homemade wild game jerky.

This is Passport to Texas

May is when Parks and Wildlife celebrates al fresco feasting; also known as picnicking. And, if you’re Larry Burrier, you always pack along some homemade wild game jerky.

08— First off, it’s more nutritional and better for you than everyday snacks. Plus – the most important thing—you know what’s in it.

People who say they don’t like jerky because it’s like trying to eat a leather belt, haven’t had good jerky says Burrier.

08— It’s supposed to be pliable. If you can take a piece of that meat and bend it without it cracking or breaking, that’s when it’s jerky. You don’t want it hard.

From-time-to-time Burrier teaches traditional jerky-making classes at Lockhart State Park. He says making this treat from wild game you’ve harvested brings your food full circle when you eat it outdoors – where it originated.

08— It’s self-sustaining. It teaches them how to live off the land. What to do with the meat after you harvest it. Of course, this state has so much game in it, it’s ridiculous.

Ridiculously delicious, that is. Find a jerky recipe to use with any animal protein, and that requires no special equipment to make, at

We record our series at the Block House. Joel Block engineers our program.

For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.

Larry Burrier’s Country Style Jerky in the Oven
From Texas Link to Jerky Making
Recipe for use with 8 pounds of venison or lean beef.

Wet Marinade:
2 teaspoons curing salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
4 teaspoons black pepper
8 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons onion powder
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 cups soy sauce
2 cups Worcestershire Sauce
3 cups water

Mix all ingredients together to make marinade for your meat.

Directions for preparing meat and making jerky:

1. Trim fat, gristle and membrane from the meat
2. Freeze the trimmed meat for approximately 2-3 hours to make slicing easier.
3. Slice meat into 1/4 to 3/8 inch slices.
4. Place meat in marinade mixture; cover and refrigerate overnight.
5. Once fully marinated, spray your oven with nonstick cooling oil spray, and preheat oven to 140 degrees (or lowest setting for your oven).
6. Place a cookie sheet or aluminum foil on the bottom of your oven to catch the drips.
7. Skewer meat strips with metal or wooden skewers and hang along racks 1/4 inch apart to provide for better heat and smoke circulation (see picture).


8. close the oven door, but use a utensil like a wooden spoon to hold open the door slightly for the first hour, as that allows more air circulation and moisture to escape.
9. After an hour close the door completely and check every hour until your jerky is dried, but flexible enough to bend. Store in air tight containers in your refrigerator.

Conservation: New Conservation License Plate

Monday, May 26th, 2014

New State Park Tent Plate

New State Park Tent Plate

This is Passport to Texas

Before long you’ll be able to express your driving passion for Texas state parks with the latest addition to the conservation license plate lineup.

11— For the first time in about a decade, we are releasing a new plate; and it’s a beautiful yellow tent – the iconic boy scout-looking tent – with a campfire and stars in the sky at night.

Janis Johnson is with the Texas Parks and Wildlife marketing Group. She says the new design evokes a sense of nostalgia and fun with family and friends at state parks.

06—Yes, we are looking to create that nostalgic feeling: taking fun memories home with you – even if it’s putting them on the back of your car.

The Camping plate joins the Bluebonnet design, both of which benefit operational activities and visitor programs at state parks. Available online, the plates, themselves, cost $30 each, not including the registration fee; $22 of cost of the plate supports parks.

15— One common misconception is that you have to wait until your renewal date comes up for your license plate – and, in fact you don’t! So, you can just go online and order the plate – fill out some information – and they will mail it to you, or you can pick it up at your local tax assessor office.

Find the camping plate and other conservation license plate designs at conservation plate dot org.

That’s our show for today… Funding provided in part by Ram Trucks. Guts. Glory. Ram. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, I’m Cecilia Nasti.