Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Dwarfism documented for first time in wild giraffes

A disorder affecting the normal development of cartilage and bone has been observed in wild giraffes. While skeletal dysplasia, or dwarfism, has been observed in captive and domestic animals such as dogs, cows, rats, pigs and marmosets, it is not often seen in wild animals. In a new study, researchers used photography to document the condition for the first time in a wild Nubian giraffe calf (Giraffa camelopardalis camelopardalis) in […]

Continue Reading →

Even the brainless need sleep

Most animals that we know of sleep. Sleep is very important for a healthy brain and our brains are important in regulating sleep. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that the cerebrospinal fluid actually washes out toxins from the brain when we get enough sleep at night. That “rinse cycle” so to speak is the brain’s way of staying healthy and is thought to prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. You may […]

Continue Reading →

Top New Species in 2020

I think most of us can agree that we are delighted to see the end of 2020. As we say good riddance and look forward to a brighter future, I thought it would be fun to consider one of the positive aspects of this past year by taking a peek at some of my favorite newly discovered or described species in 2020. Achalinus zugorum While there are many species of […]

Continue Reading →

Are humans really just upright cats?

Okay seriously, humans are not actually cats. But, humans and cats do share similar nervous system control over how we move from one place to another, i.e. locomotion as described in a recent review article published in Physiology. The ability for mammals to finely control movement depends on two main control systems located in the brain and spine as well as sensory feedback from the skin, muscles, tendons, eyes, and […]

Continue Reading →

Extreme Fasting

While giant pandas roll in horse manure to stay warm in the winter (that’s a different story), other animals spend up to 8 months hibernating to conserve energy during times of reduced food availability and freezing temperatures. During their long winter’s nap, animals such as the Arctic ground squirrel and 13-lined ground squirrel go without food or water while at the same time avoiding muscle wasting – a rather impressive […]

Continue Reading →

The evolution of sugar addiction

I have been opening Christmas cards and pondering the science of sugar addiction, admittedly while snacking on sugar cookies – ‘tis the season after all! Excess consumption of highly palatable (i.e. quite tasty) foods as well as sedentary lifestyles are thought to be at the root of the current obesity epidemic. In fact, it is thought that as many as 30% of people living in developed countries are either overweight […]

Continue Reading →

Staying warm on a chilly day

Giant panda bears have a very unusual trick to staying warm. This unusual behavior was first noted by scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing who observed a giant panda rolling around in horse manure in the Qinling mountains in central China during the winter of 2007. To see whether this was just a rogue panda or a more common behavior, scientists set up camera traps and observed […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →