Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Hydrogen sulfide – the gas we hate to smell, but can’t live without

Although hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is most often associated with manure and the smells of rotten eggs, research has shown it plays important physiological roles. In fact, our bodies actually produce H2S within our cells. Other source of H2S include sulfate-producing bacteria in our gut and dietary intake (such as garlic and cruciferous vegetables). H2S is a member of a group of gasotransmitters, referred to as the ‘reactive species interactome’, that […]

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Domestic zebrafish are less plastic

Zebrafish have been used in medical research since at least the 1970’s as their anatomy, physiology, as well as genetics are similar to humans. Other advantages to studying zebrafish is that they are inexpensive to raise, and they reproduce well in captivity. The ability to adjust one’s physiology in response to varying environments is called plasticity. An organism may encounter any number of environmental fluctuations (light/dark, temperatures, predation risk, noise, […]

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Scientists get a glimpse of what makes cephalopods so smart

From walking on land, to solving complex problems, cephalopods continue to amaze us with their intelligence and nervous system development. In a new study published in Current Biology, Dr. Wen-Sung Chung from the University of Queensland Brain Institute and colleagues decided to take a closer look at what makes their brains unique using MRI imaging. Compared to other invertebrates, cephalopods are rather brainy. In fact, some cephalopods have over 500 […]

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Happy Valentine’s Day to you and all significant otters

Happy Valentine’s Day! While humans often exchange cards, candy, flowers and other goodies this day, I thought it would be fun to check out some of the ways animals and zoos celebrated the day. Animals at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo enjoyed special treats in celebration of Valentine’s Day: Animals at the Farm Sanctuary shared kisses: The Oregon Zoo wanted to wish a Happy Valentine’s Day to all the ‘significant otters’ […]

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Exploring the tree of life

Dr. Yan Wong (University of Oxford) and Dr. James Rosindell (Imperial College of London) have created the most comprehensive tree of life to date. Their tree, a culmination of over 10 years of research (image above, from, is an exquisite interactive tool that can be used to decipher genetic connections between more than 2 million species. Each tiny leaf represents a single species and clicking on the leaf will […]

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Top New Species in 2020

I think most of us can agree that we are delighted to see the end of 2020. As we say good riddance and look forward to a brighter future, I thought it would be fun to consider one of the positive aspects of this past year by taking a peek at some of my favorite newly discovered or described species in 2020. Achalinus zugorum While there are many species of […]

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Live fast, die young

Researchers have long known that smaller animals have higher metabolisms and tend to die younger than larger animals. Think about it – a mouse typically only lives about 2 years whereas an elephant in the wild may live 50-70 years, depending on the species. After studying over 700 species of birds and 540 species of mammals, scientists discovered that migratory animals also live faster (mature and reproduce earlier) and die […]

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New study may help shed light on avian diversity

An international team of scientists have characterized the genome of 363 species of birds representing 92.4% of avian families. 267 of these species were newly released sequences as part of the Bird 10,000 Genomes (B10K) Project. The goal of this project is to find both similarities as well as unique genome variations among lineages of birds that might contribute to their amazing biodiversity. The study also confirmed that the common […]

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Speaking of space…’Mighty Mice’ stay mighty muscular in space

While we are on the topic of research conducted by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), Space X’s 19th resupply mission to the ISS included studies that might help prevent muscle loss in astronauts as well as humans on Earth. While exercise programs have been developed for astronauts, these programs may not be as useful for long-distance space travel – such as a trip to Mars. This is where […]

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