Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Extreme Animals

Snoring seals can teach us so much about sleep apnea

When I think of sleep apnea, the first thing that comes to mind is snoring. People, and animals, that have sleep apnea periodically stop breathing when they are sleeping and wake up when their brain senses the drop in oxygen. Understandably, people with sleep apnea often feel tired and have difficulty concentrating. Just imagine having your sleep interrupted night after night. Because of the changes in blood oxygen, people with […]

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Extreme Diet: The blood thirsty vampire bat

Just in time for Halloween: I came across a preprint in bioRxiv that identified 13 genes missing from vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus), but found in other bat species. Animals that drink blood, or sanguivores, have to deal with a diet that is high in protein but typically lower in fat and sugar. Many of the missing genes are thought to be related to their ability to drink blood and obtain […]

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Now there’s an endurance athlete:

With the Beijing 2022 Olympics quickly approaching, I thought it would be fun to showcase some extreme animals. Take the Arctic tern (above), for example. These birds hold the record for longest migration. Terns are born during the summer in the Arctic circle and travel all the way to the Antarctic circle every year to spend the summer – a distance of ~30,000 km, talk about a marathon! For comparison, […]

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Featuring: Ohio Physiological Society, Part 2

Here are some additional highlights from the 35th annual Ohio Physiological Society conference… Elizabeth Evans (Graduate Student, University of Dayton), Dr. David Goldstein (Wright State University), and Dr. Carissa Krane (University of Dayton) presented research examining the effects of multiple freeze-thaw cycles on Cope’s Gray treefrogs (Dryophytes chrysoscelis). Yes, that’s right, I said freeze-thaw cycles. These freeze tolerant animals build up glycerol in their bodies to help survive seasonal conditions […]

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Birds may stay warm with the help of red blood cells

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden were interested in understanding how birds adapted to cold weather. Birds can’t turn up the heat in their birdhouse, so it is important for them to find physiological ways to stay warm. While they can store body fat and grow more feathers for insulation, metabolism is the primary way endothermic animals create body heat. Mitochondria produce cellular energy (ATP) but can also create heat […]

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Tenrecs may shed light on the evolution of body temperature regulation

The common tenrec (Tenrec ecaudatus) just may be a living representative of ancestral placental mammals and they are very interesting when it comes to body temperature regulation and torpor. Torpor is a complex series of physiological changes that reduce an animal’s physical activity as well as heart, breathing and metabolic rates, which also results in decreases in body temperature than can be as low as their surrounding environment. Many mammalian […]

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Oddity of mammalian red blood cells

Mammalian red blood cells do not have a nucleus, which is different from birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish (see image above). Many textbooks report that the absence of a nucleus provides room for more hemoglobin within the cells, which is important to fuel the relatively high metabolic rates of mammals. Hemoglobin is an important oxygen-binding molecule that allows the red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues throughout the body […]

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What can hibernators teach us about obesity? Q&A with Dr. Courtney Kurtz, University of Wisconsin

We are pleased to talk with Dr. Courtney Kurtz, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh about her research on hibernation and how her research might lead to treatments for obesity. Ground squirrels are a natural model organism for many physiological processes. Can you tell us why you use ground squirrels in your research?  ​Ground squirrels are hibernators.  They spend the majority of the winter in a […]

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Can lobsters lead us to the proverbial ‘Fountain of Youth’?

When thinking about lobsters, some people may think of: Aside from being a favorite menu item, did you know that American lobsters (Homarus americanus) are one of the largest bottom dwelling (i.e. benthic) invertebrate in the ocean? In fact, they seem to be able to grow indefinitely and have been observed to reach over 1 meter in length? For this reason, scientists suspect they may be a rather long-lived species […]

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A whale shark’s superpower: Healing

Da-dum, da-dum…that’s right! Shark week is back!! It starts tonight on Discovery channel. Grab some popcorn, it’s going to be a wild ride! To kick off the week in our own way, I found this interesting study that examined wound healing in whale sharks, the world’s largest fish. These animals often exhibit scars resulting from collisions with boats and new research shows they have impressive wound healing capabilities. In the […]

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