Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Comparative Physiology

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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Why being ‘bird-brained’ may actually be a compliment

It has long been suspected that birds (and reptiles) were not very smart because they lack a neocortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for working memory, perception, problem solving, and conscious thought in mammals. In stark contrast to this idea, studies have repeatedly shown that several species of birds have very good memories as well as planning and problem solving skills (see examples below), which has […]

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Avian red blood cells produce hydrogen sulfide to maintain cell integrity and longevity

Birds have strange red blood cells, at least in comparison to mammals. While they both are responsible for transporting oxygen molecules throughout the body, avian red blood cells have mitochondria and a nucleus. Mammalian red blood cells, on the other hand, are missing a nucleus as well as organelles. By eliminating these structures, mammalian red blood cells are able to carry more oxygen molecules and fold more easily to fit […]

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Defining Comparative Physiology

Today I interviewed Mr. Anthony J. Basile from Arizona State University who is working in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Sweazea. Anthony is a nutritionist and a third-year evolutionary biology PhD student whose research focuses on nutrition-related disease. He was scheduled to present his study at the 2020 Experimental Biology conference in San Diego last month. As with many plans these days, the conference was cancelled due to Covid-19. Can […]

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Comparative physiology is alive and well

Anthony Basile, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Karen Sweazea at Arizona State University, presented an interesting talk at the 2019 Arizona Physiological Society conference. He presented data from an international study conducted to explore how physiologists define comparative physiology today. August Krogh was credited with the founding of comparative physiology. In 1929 he published a paper that included a profound statement, “For such a large number of […]

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Physiology in Arizona

The Arizona Physiological Society will be hosting their 12th annual meeting Friday and Saturday on the Arizona State University campus. Physiologists from all over the state will be meeting to talk about a variety of topics ranging from comparative physiology to clinical trials. The 2019 Arizona Distinguished Lecturer is Dr. Ralph Fregosi from the University of Arizona in Tucson who specializes in respiratory physiology. The Keynote speaker will be Dr. […]

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Researchers in Washington scheduled to talk about physiology

The Greater Washington DC Area Physiological Society will be hosting their 6th annual meeting on Monday at The George Washington University. This year’s distinguished speaker will be Dr. Nehal N. Mehta, a Lasker Clinical Research Scholar at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Mehta’s research examines how inflammation leads to insulin resistance and the development of metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Other invited speakers include: Dr. Brian Glancy, an Earl Stadtman Investigator […]

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Ohio talks about physiology and disease

Researchers from around the state of Ohio met today at the 34th annual Ohio Physiological Society meeting to discuss their research. Although many of the presentations were not on comparative physiology topics, I found some particularly interesting and thought I would share them with you anyway. Here goes: Dr. Katherine Vest and her research team (Kierra Ware, Yu Zhang, Thomas Whitlow) from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine presented their research on […]

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Does size matter?

  When it comes to how blood vessels function, the answer is yes. A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology examined this question for the first time in toads (Rhinella marina). Regulation of blood vessel diameter, and hence blood pressure, is a complex process involving a variety of factors that are secreted by cells in the vascular wall in addition to factors found […]

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Dr. Terrie Williams, 2019 August Krogh Distinguished Lecture

This year’s August Krogh Distinguished Lecture was awarded to Dr. Terrie Williams from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She gave an excellent lecture on her research with dolphins, narwhals and Weddell seals examining their physiological responses to diving, which includes a remarkable ability to reduce heart rate. He current research is aimed at identifying physiological mechanisms that could explain the increasing incidence of cetaceans becoming stranded on beaches […]

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