Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Environment

Experimental Biology – Day 2

Yesterday was a great day for comparative physiology! Highlights from the seminars on comparative physiology: Melissa Reiterer, graduate student from Florida Atlantic University, presented her research on how freshwater turtles (Trachemys scripta) survive for long periods of time without oxygen and do not develop oxidative stress after oxygen is restored. The turtles are able to do this by creating their own antioxidants as well as eliminating oxidative stress. In contrast, mammals including humans, develop […]

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Need pest control, get a spider

A new study shows that globally, spiders consume 400-800 million tons of prey each year. That’s roughly more than double the amount of fish and meat that humans consume. Impressive…yet creepy at the same time. I suppose we should thank them for their pest control efforts. Sources: M Nyffeler, K Birkhofer. An estimated 400–800 million tons of prey are annually killed by the global spider community. The Science of Nature. 104: 30, 2017. […]

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Researchers discover new genes that protects water bears when they dry out

Water bears, aka tardigrades, are resilient little creatures. These microscopic animals can survive both freezing and boiling temperatures, radiation, high pressure, starvation, the vacuum of space and even desiccation. This last ability caught the attention of a team of researchers interested in how they are able to survive for years despite being completely dried out, an ability known as anhydrobiosis. Video by Daiki D. Horikawa, via YouTube. The team discovered special genes that […]

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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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