Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Arizona Physiological Society’s annual conference: Part 2

Arizona’s physiologists met in October to talk about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, urbanization, the evolution of walking and vocalizations, snow leopards, and diet. Here are the highlights…

Oral Presentations:

Image of zebra finch by Jim Bendon from Karratha, Australia, via Wikimedia Commons

Graduate student Luke Endicott from the Arizona College of Medicine at Midwestern University, working with R. Potter and Dr. C.R. Olson presented their research exploring how zebra finches learn to sing and the importance of vitamin A in this process. Does vitamin A play a similar role in vocal learning in humans?

Image of the rash caused by Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever via Wikimedia Commons

Postdoctoral associate Charles Schaefer from the College of Graduate Studies at Midwestern University, working with J. Mutterperl, M.G. Logue, N. Roe, A. Oliva, M. Quinlan, J.A. Hernandez, R. Kreisler, J. VandenBrooks and K.J. Lee, shared updates from their research aimed at predicting and preventing Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever outbreaks in the United States. This tick-borne illness is spread to humans from dogs that carry infected ticks. Cases of the illness have been rising in recent years in Arizona. The researchers are surveying cases of the illness in dogs to assess risk to human health.

Poster Presentations:

Graduate student Anthony J. Basile from Arizona State University, working with A. Kreisler and Dr. K. Sweazea, reviewed the literature and reported that while the majority of studies show higher levels of glucose and cholesterol in urban birds, there was a lack of consensus about changes in other blood metabolites compared to bird in rural areas. Maybe the high glucose and cholesterol are related to their diets or differences in stress in the city?

Graduate student Breanna L. Aikens from Midwestern University in Glendale, AZ, working with G.J. Pinc, M.C. O’Neil, and Dr. J.M. VandenBrooks used state of the art microscopy techniques to compare muscle fiber types in primates. They can use these data to shed light on the evolution of muscles in primates as well as to predict muscle performance. 

Graduate students Melissa Kasai and Morgan Hirsch from Midwestern University, working with A. Tonelli-Raylove, C.R. Olson, and J. Struthers studied the cause of death for birds that flew into windows. Such window strikes are thought to kill between 0.5-1 billion birds each year. By collecting and performing postmortem examinations of 29 species of birds that had died from window strikes, they discovered that the birds most often succumbed to injuries to their chest as opposed to head injuries. The hope is that this information will help improve the treatment of birds that have sustained such injuries.

Graduate student Shelby Marsh from Midwestern University, working with K. Reames, H.F. Smith, K.E.B. Townsend, and Dr. A. Grossman, studied the anatomy of snow leopard (Panthera uncia) tails to unravel how their tails may help the animals traverse the steep mountain terrain they call home. Interestingly, they also discovered that the tails had more fat near the body, which may help keep the animals warm.   

Undergraduate student Kavita Singh from Arizona State University, working with A.J. Basile, D.F. Watson, and Dr. K.L. Sweazea reviews the literature to see how diet can alter the blood sugar of birds. What they found was that most studies found no change in blood sugar when they altered the amount of macronutrients (sugar, fat, protein) in the bird’s diet (jealous!!). They also found that more than half of the studies supplementing birds with chromium reported a decrease in their blood sugar, similar to what is seen in humans with diabetes given the supplement.   


Categories: Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Livestock, Comparative Physiology, Diet and Exercise, Environment, Extreme Animals, Illnesses and Injuries, Intelligence and Neuroscience, Pets, Physiology on the Road, Urbanization

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