Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Climate Change

Shape-shifting animals adapting to climate change

A recent review of the existing scientific literature found evidence suggesting that warm-blooded animals may be literally shape-shifting to adapt to climate changes. According to Allen’s rule, animals living in warmer climates have larger appendages than those living in cold climates, which helps increase the available surface area for heat loss to the environment. Such heat exchange mechanisms are very important in thermoregulation to avoid retaining excess heat. The authors […]

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Tenrecs may shed light on the evolution of body temperature regulation

The common tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus) just may be a living representative of ancestral placental mammals and they are very interesting when it comes to body temperature regulation and torpor. Torpor is a complex series of physiological changes that reduce an animal’s physical activity as well as heart, breathing and metabolic rates, which also results in decreases in body temperature than can be as low as their surrounding environment. Many mammalian […]

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Can lobsters lead us to the proverbial ‘Fountain of Youth’?

When thinking about lobsters, some people may think of: Aside from being a favorite menu item, did you know that American lobsters (Homarus americanus) are one of the largest bottom dwelling (i.e. benthic) invertebrate in the ocean? In fact, they seem to be able to grow indefinitely and have been observed to reach over 1 meter in length? For this reason, scientists suspect they may be a rather long-lived species […]

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Bioaccumulation of metals in sharks

A new study highlights the impact of metal accumulation (cobalt, manganese, nickel, copper, iron and mercury) on the health of twenty individual sharks representing 8 species that were accidentally caught by fisheries in Brazil. Necropsies of the animals showed high levels of metals in the liver, gills and rectal glands. Perhaps not surprisingly, larger animals had more accumulation of the metals in their gills than smaller animals. Higher accumulation in […]

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Q&A with Dr. Jon Harrison, Meredith Johnson, and Jordan Glass

We recently interviewed Meredith Johnson (graduate student), Jordan Glass (graduate student), and Dr. Jon Harrison from the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University about the research they presented at the 2021 annual Experimental Biology conference.   Q: You mentioned in one of your presentations that insects have an ‘unusual’ respiratory system. Can you explain how it differs from mammals?  Dr. Harrison: Insects exchange gases through blind-ended air-filled tubes called tracheae. There […]

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Experimental Biology 2021: Q&A with Molly Simonis

We are delighted to speak with Molly Simonis who is currently a PhD Candidate working with Dr. Lynn Hartzler at Wright State University. Molly is a member of the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society and she presented her research “Captive Big Brown Bats (Eptesicus fuscus) Display Hypothermia and Hypometabolism” at the 2021 Experimental Biology conference last month. Q: What made you interested in studying big brown […]

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Experimental Biology 2021: Q&A with Dr. Christian Damsgaard

We are delighted to speak with Dr. Christian Damsgaard who is currently an Assistant Professor at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies & Section for Zoophysiology, Aarhus University, Denmark. Dr. Damsgaard is a member of the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society and he presented his research “Active Blood Acidification Greatly Enhances Oxygen Supply to the Teleost Retina” at the 2021 Experimental Biology conference today. What initially interested you in studying […]

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Surviving the cold

The ability to regulate body temperature is critical for animals. This is especially true for small mammals as they have a larger surface area resulting in more heat loss to the environment than larger animals. Animals that stay active during the winter likewise have to spend more energy to stay warm. To do this well, they need to balance heat loss with heat generation through shivering as well as non-shivering […]

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Extreme tolerance of dehydration stress

Talk about an extreme animal. During the rainy season annual killifish, Austrofundulus limnaeus, lay eggs that are resistant to droughts. This is an important attribute for a fish that lives in temporary pools of water. The stress-resistant embryos within the eggs literally shut down their metabolism to survive months – possibly years without water. For many fish, exposure to air (and oxygen) can cause profound oxidative stress. Remarkably, this is […]

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Anoxia tolerance in goldfish

The reason mammals are not very good at tolerating hypoxic (i.e. low oxygen) environments, is because the brain relies heavily on oxygen for metabolism. It is so stingy, it uses about 20% of the oxygen in the body to make ATP. Without oxygen, the brain has to rely on glycolysis to make ATP and this process is not good at meeting the energy requirements of the neurons, ultimately resulting in […]

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