Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Exercise

Hummingbirds can choose how deep to sleep

Could you imagine drinking a can of soda every minute just to support your high metabolism? Amazingly, that is the equivalent to how much sugar a hummingbird needs to support their rapid wingbeats during flight. In fact, hummingbird flight muscles are the fastest on record, allowing the birds to flap their wings at a rate of up to 200 beats per second! That explains why they are always at my […]

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Migratory birds create their own water to prevent dehydration

Migratory birds are amazingly adapted for long-distance flights and can switch the fuels they rely on to support their endurance activities. Unlike humans that burn mainly carbohydrates for endurance exercise, avian flight is fueled mainly by fats and some proteins. In a recent study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology researchers examined how white-throated sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) prepared for migration. By altering the […]

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Heat may activate muscle growth and prevent atrophy

Skeletal muscle is not only important for our ability to move, it also plays a major role in metabolism. Under normal conditions, the routine processes of muscle growth (hypertrophy) and breakdown (atrophy) are in balance. While many of us are aware that exercise and healthy diets promote muscle growth, diseases and sedentary lifestyles can promote muscle atrophy. Studies examining the effects of heat on muscle – from environmental heat, direct […]

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Buoyancy and Balance

Existing species of coelacanths (pictured above) are descendants of a group of fish that existed about 410 million years ago, during the early Devonian period. They can be found in the Western Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia. These fish are really interesting because they have very low metabolic rates. In fact, their metabolism is among the lowest of any other existing vertebrate. Even sloths are jealous of their […]

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Geriatric bees

Jacob Pithan, a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Kendra Greenlee (North Dakota State University), presented their research examining how aging affects exercise performance as well as oxidative health at last month’s Experimental Biology conference in Philadelphia. The oxidative stress theory of aging postulates that aging results from an overproduction of free radicals along with a decrease in antioxidants that can scavenge them. The problem with free radicals is […]

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Grappling with gravidity

In humans, pregnancy can be an uncomfortable time as the growing fetus makes it more difficult to breathe. It can also become more difficult for the expectant mother to get around. It may be surprising to find out that grasshoppers may develop similar issues when they are ‘expecting’. In fact, a gravid grasshopper can carry an egg mass that makes up as much as 40% of their weight! Could you […]

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EB 2022: Seals, seals, and more seals

Several posters at EB 2022 in Philadelphia this month were focused on understanding the remarkable physiology of diving seals. Although we may think of the image below when we picture seals, they really are quite the athletes in water. Kaitlin Allen (a graduate student working in the laboratory of Dr. José Pablo Vázquez-Medina at the University of California Berkeley) presented her research on Northern elephant seals and how these animals […]

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EB2022: Facing Oxygen Challenges

I learned a lot about how animals adapt to changing environmental oxygen levels in the Experimental Biology symposium on “Functional Integration across the Oxygen Cascade in the Face of Challenging Environments.” Here is what I learned… The first presenter, Dr. Lara do Amaral-Silva (postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro working with Dr. Joseph (Joe) Santin), spoke about her research on adaptations in the bullfrog “super-brain” that […]

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EB 2022: Modeling human diseases and healthy aging

I sat through a very interesting session at this year’s Experimental Biology conference called, “The Power of Comparative Models for Accelerating Translational Healthspan Research: Underutilized Lab Animals, Companion Pets, Old World Monkeys, and Pumas.” While the title seems to capture the general idea of the symposium, I thought I would share a bit more information about the presenters and their exciting research. Dr. Karyn Hamilton from Colorado State University presented […]

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More on the uniqueness of humans when it comes to heart disease…

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, heart-themed items seem to be everywhere. It is no surprise that I started thinking more and more about how humans are unique from other animals when it comes to heart disease. In my last entry, we talked about a few genetic variants that protect some humans from heart disease as well as the observation that many carnivores do not develop atherosclerosis, even when […]

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