Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Intelligence and Neuroscience

Ever wonder why bats sleep upside down?

Just in time for Halloween: Besides being an excellent way to avoid predators, roosting or hanging upside down is optimal for taking off into flight. Bats are not able to launch into flight from an upright position because their wings do not generate sufficient lift while at a dead stop. Additionally, their hindlegs are rather underdeveloped, so they are not able to run to generate lift for take-off. Instead, bats […]

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Centipede venom blocks pain more effectively than morphine

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and The University of Queensland have discovered a venom from centipedes capable of blocking pain more effectively than morphine! According to the study authors, centipedes have appeared in the fossil records as far back as 430 million years. They are also one of the first land-dwelling creatures to use venom to incapacitate their prey as shown in the image above of a Chinese […]

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Spider creates sculptures

Check out this “sculpure” of a spider discovered by Biologist Phil Torres, created by what may be a new species of Cyclosa found in the Peruvian Amazon. This is not just a pattern weaved by the spider into the web, but instead it is created from debris in the forest (dead insects, leaves, etc.). It is believed the spiders use the sculptures to confuse predators. The real spider can be […]

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Crows show ability to reason

Dr. Alex Taylor from The University of Auckland has demonstrated that New Caledonian crows have the ability to perform causal reasoning, which is the ability to infer that something you cannot see may be the cause of something. According to the article, this is the first study to experimentally demonstrate this ability in a species other than humans. Source Science Now

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Epilepsy medication reverses symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Researchers Sanchez et al. from the Gladstone Institute, University of California San Francisco and Washington University School of Medicine discovered that an FDA-approved anti-convulsant medication used to treat epilepsy (levetiracetam) can also reverse memory loss in addition to reducing other Alzheimer’s related symptoms in a mouse model of the disease. Alzheimer’s is currently the most common form of dementia (memory loss) representing 50-80% of cases. It is a disease that worsens over time. Although […]

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Catnip for dogs?

A reader asked if there was an herb equivalent to catnip for dogs. In my search for the answer to that question, I came across many articles claiming that although some dogs will actually respond to catnip, aniseed is to dogs what catnip is to cats. Foxhounds will reportedly follow the scent of anise oil in drag hunting and the artificial rabbit that greyhound dogs chase during racing is laced […]

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Octopus smarts caught on video…and I only thought they could open jars

It seems that octopuses are even smarter, and more fearless, than previously thought. It has been known for some time that they can be trained to open jars to obtain treats as shown in the promotional video for “Aliens of the Deep Sea” shown below: There are even stories of them purposefully escaping their own tank to snack on fish in a tank nearby. More recently, the animals have been […]

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