Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Extreme Animals

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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Secrets to Longevity

A new article published in Physiological Reviews compared some remarkable similarities and differences between naked mole rats and humans. Both are relatively long-lived, highly social and have low natural selection pressures. But, this is about all they have in common. While humans are prone to developing age-related cancer, diabetes, heart disease and dementias, naked mole rats are rather resistant to these diseases. Instead, naked mole rats appear to maintain a youthful […]

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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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Komodo dragons have antibacterial blood

Researchers studying komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) at George Mason University discovered 48 previously unknown peptides in their blood that might have antimicrobial properties. Their findings were published in the Journal of Proteome Research. For the largest lizard, these peptides may help prevent the animals from getting infections from their own saliva, which is host to at least 57 species of bacteria. With this number of bacteria, it is easy to understand why they evolved so many […]

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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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Reindeers may pave way for discovery of nerve regeneration techniques for humans

I came across a neat article in Scientific American that described how reindeer and elk regrow their antlers every year. Could you imagine putting that much energy into growing new bone each year complete with a velvety cover containing nerves, skin, and blood vessels? Although full-grown antlers lose their blood supply and animals scrape the velvet layer off to reveal just bone. Researchers have explored whether understanding this amazing process of […]

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Amazing longevity of Greenland sharks

A multi-national team of scientists sought to determine the age of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus). These animals grow rather slowly (about 1cm per year) and are the largest fish in the arctic (>500 cm long), but their longevity was not yet known. The team used radiocarbon dating of crystalline proteins found within the nuclei of the eye lens. Because these proteins are formed prenatally, they offer a rather accurate way to […]

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