Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Frigatebirds and lambs

I was checking out the award-winning American Physiological Society’s I Spy Physiology blog and came across a couple of really interesting posts about animals:

“If Only Birds Could Compete in the Summer Games”

frigatebird

Photo of a frigatebird in the study. Credit: Max Planck Institute.

This post reported a study of how frigatebirds manage to sleep during flights out at sea that can last for weeks. By measuring brain activity, the research team found that the birds were capable of actual sleep, during which time both sides of the brain showed sleep patterns for seconds at a time. In addition, they found the birds often only allowed one side of the brain to sleep at a time to stay alert to potential dangers…like falling for example. Although the birds technically did get some sleep out at sea, the total duration was only about 42 minutes per day. This is a mere fraction of the more than 12 hours they typically get on land.

Learning about a Leading Cause of Infant Mortality from Lambs

lamb

Image: Wikimedia

Not to be confused with systemic hypertension, pulmonary hypertension means that the arteries in the lungs have high blood pressure. Interestingly, blood pressure in the lungs of a developing fetus is normally high until birth at which time pressure falls to normal. Therefore, some babies can develop pulmonary hypertension if their blood pressure does not decrease after birth. This particular post presented research that examined whether a new drug could prevent pulmonary hypertension in lambs that were born at high altitude. Since the drug was effective in lambs, the research team is hoping that this treatment will work just as well in human babies with pulmonary hypertension.

Categories: Comparative Physiology

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