Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Long sperm, short sperm, fast sperm, slow sperm

I read an interesting review published in Physiology that examined how sperm from different species are especially evolved to help promote fertilization, which if successful, results in the creation of an offspring. It is simply amazing to think of the multitude of ways this process occurs in nature. Take marine invertebrates and fish for example. These animals release eggs and sperm into the water. In contrast, fertilization happens internally in […]

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Live fast, die young

Researchers have long known that smaller animals have higher metabolisms and tend to die younger than larger animals. Think about it – a mouse typically only lives about 2 years whereas an elephant in the wild may live 50-70 years, depending on the species. After studying over 700 species of birds and 540 species of mammals, scientists discovered that migratory animals also live faster (mature and reproduce earlier) and die […]

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New study may help shed light on avian diversity

An international team of scientists have characterized the genome of 363 species of birds representing 92.4% of avian families. 267 of these species were newly released sequences as part of the Bird 10,000 Genomes (B10K) Project. The goal of this project is to find both similarities as well as unique genome variations among lineages of birds that might contribute to their amazing biodiversity. The study also confirmed that the common […]

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How a really long winter’s nap can impact sperm production

As winter approaches, hibernating animals will finalize their preparations for taking a ‘long winter’s nap’. These remarkable animals reduce their metabolism to help conserve energy at a time when environmental resources are scarce and considerable energy would otherwise need to be spent on just staying warm. For many species of hibernators, periodically entering this state of torpor allows them to reduce their energy needs by 90% compared to intermittent states […]

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Nature’s architects

Nature has already solved many problems that doctors, researchers, and architects are still trying to solve for humans. For example, some of our prior posts have talked about how some animals are resistant to developing cancer: Elephants Tasmanian devils Naked mole rats Other animals have developed special nano antibodies (nanobodies) to fight disease. Llamas While several are tolerant of very low oxygen levels in the environment, others are champions of […]

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Speaking of space…’Mighty Mice’ stay mighty muscular in space

While we are on the topic of research conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), Space X’s 19th resupply mission to the ISS included studies that might help prevent muscle loss in astronauts as well as humans on Earth. While exercise programs have been developed for astronauts, these programs may not be as useful for long-distance space travel – such as a trip to Mars. This is where […]

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Comparative Physiologist listed among the 100 most influential people of 2020

I was very excited to see Comparative Physiologist and astronaut Jessica Meir listed among Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020. Together with astronaut Christina Koch, who was also named among the top 100, the astronauts performed the first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2019. In all, the pair completed three spacewalks while aboard the International Space Station. It is hard to imagine how challenging it must […]

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Extreme flight

May I have a drumroll please? The winner is…..the bar-tailed godwit!! *round of applause!!!!* The winner of what you may ask? This bird broke the world record for the longest non-stop flight – 7,500 miles – without the luxury of in-flight service. I bet it was hungry when it landed…

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Getting away from salt – the transition to life on land

The transition of vertebrates from the salty ocean to life on land required the ability for these animals to change how they dealt with salt. While salt is essential for many cellular functions, salt balance must be tightly regulated to prevent illness or even death. Animals that live in a salty environment have evolved the ability to get rid of excess salt from their bodies whereas land-dwelling animals evolved the […]

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Amazing dives

Researchers at Duke University recorded how long whales stay underwater during dives and made an impressive discovery. Some Cuvier’s beaked whales were capable of exceptionally long dives. While most dives were less than 78 minutes long, one animal performed a dive that lasted more than 3 hours! Interestingly, the recovery times from the dives did not appear to have a clear relationship with the dive duration. Researchers think these animals […]

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