Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Environment

Fluorescent frogs

A new article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences presents the discovery of a species of frog with fluorescence. The South American polka dot tree frog, aka Hypsiboas punctatus is already rather cute under normal light. But when exposed to UV light, this frog really shines. It gets its glowing personality from fluorescent molecules, hyloin-L1, L2 and G1, found in the skin, lymph tissues, and secretions from glands. These molecules have not been found in […]

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Improved cognition in male turtles exposed to BPA during development

Bisphenol A (BPA) has earned a bad reputation as a potential endocrine disrupting chemical in several studies of developing animals. Some studies even report correlations of BPA levels with certain diseases in humans. Thus it is not surprising there are a plethora of BPA-free food containers, especially for baby food and bottles, as our most common route of exposure is through our diet. It gets there from the epoxy resin lining of some canned foods as […]

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Camouflage in motion

Cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) are masters of camouflage. Being able to mimic their surroundings helps them hide from predators. But how do they maintain their camouflage while moving through complex environments, such as coral reefs, sea grass, and varying light patterns? A new study published in Frontiers in Physiology examined this question. They wanted to know how small an object in the environment could be for the cuttlefish to still mimic it quickly enough while moving. What […]

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Ammonia tolerance of goldfish

Liver failure or congenital defects can lead to a build-up of ammonia in the brain of mammals resulting in life-threatening swelling, convulsions and comas. For goldfish (Carassius auratus), environmental exposure to ammonia causes reversible swelling of the brain. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers wanted to explore how the fish were able to accomplish this. They exposed goldfish to high […]

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Carbon monoxide lowers breathing rate in fish too

  We tend to think of carbon monoxide (CO) only in terms of being a poisonous gas. The reason for its toxicity is due to its ability to bind really tightly to our hemoglobin molecules, which prevents oxygen from being able to bind. In mammals, CO also decrease breathing rate. As you can imagine, it is a pretty terrible gas to breath in when you are a species dependent on hemoglobin for delivery […]

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Effects of environmental temperature on fruit flies

A changing climate has the potential to greatly impact ectotherms, which depend on the environment to regulate their own body temperatures. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology- Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers were curious how exposure to varying temperatures would affect developing ectotherms. They answered this question using Drosophila melanogaster, commonly known as fruit flies. They exposed freshly laid eggs to ten different temperatures ranging from 12 […]

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How to grow a bigger heart…

…in alligators at least. Researchers from the University of Manchester, University of North Texas – Denton, and the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge – Grand Chenier, Louisiana teamed up to explore the effects of exposure to low oxygen on embryonic American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). Alligator eggs are often laid in nests where oxygen concentrations can reportedly vary between 11-20% (21% is normal atmospheric levels). This is really important as issues related to embryonic development could continue to affect animals throughout their adult lives […]

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Reducing gas emissions…from cows

No joke: California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to regulate ‘gas’ emissions from cows along with other sources of greenhouse gases, of course. According to an interview from NPR, dairy cows are the number one producer of methane in California. The problem with methane is that it is a major component of smog, although according to scientists at the University of California Santa Barbara, it is not the leading cause of global warming. In fact, agriculture-related […]

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Pigeons in the lead mine?

With reported lead poisonings in cities such as Flint Michigan, methods to detect risk of exposure are desperately needed. Since pigeons live in close proximity to humans, could pigeons be the ‘canary in the lead mine’? Researchers at Columbia University in New York City measured the concentrations of lead in the blood of 825 ill or injured feral pigeons to determine whether the animals could serve as bioindicators of levels in the environment. Their results were published […]

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How the rectum helps prevent dehydration in saltwater

Teleost fish living in saltwater environments are constantly compensating for water loss. This happens because their surroundings have higher concentrations of salts than their plasma and the rule of thumb in Biology is: water follows salt.  Thus these fish must somehow compensate for water loss in order to prevent dehydration. One way they do this is by drinking a lot of water. Ions are then removed from the water in the intestines which […]

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