Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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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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Comparative Physiologist listed among the 100 most influential people of 2020

I was very excited to see Comparative Physiologist and astronaut Jessica Meir listed among Time’s 100 most influential people of 2020. Together with astronaut Christina Koch, who was also named among the top 100, the astronauts performed the first all-female spacewalk at the International Space Station in 2019. In all, the pair completed three spacewalks while aboard the International Space Station. It is hard to imagine how challenging it must […]

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Extreme flight

May I have a drumroll please? The winner is…..the bar-tailed godwit!! *round of applause!!!!* The winner of what you may ask? This bird broke the world record for the longest non-stop flight – 7,500 miles – without the luxury of in-flight service. I bet it was hungry when it landed…

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Why being ‘bird-brained’ may actually be a compliment

It has long been suspected that birds (and reptiles) were not very smart because they lack a neocortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for working memory, perception, problem solving, and conscious thought in mammals. In stark contrast to this idea, studies have repeatedly shown that several species of birds have very good memories as well as planning and problem solving skills (see examples below), which has […]

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There it is!

Somali elephant shrews were thought to be extinct until someone caught a glimpse of this little fellow. It is the first sighting of a Somali elephant shrew in 50 years! This adorable creature is actually related to elephants and aardvarks. While they typically eat ants, researchers were able to attract this shrew using oatmeal, peanut butter, and marmite…yum!

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Role of phoenixin-20 in regulating appetite and glucose metabolism

Phoenixin-20 is a small peptide that has been detected in mammals, birds, amphibians and fish. Studies have shown that it can modify reproductive processes in female mammals and fish. In addition, it has been shown in mammalian studies to act as a pain reducer and modulator of food intake. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers explored whether phoenixin-20 has […]

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Hot Chicks, Cool Dudes: How sex can be shaped by temperature

This guest blog entry was written by the 2020 Dr. Dolittle Award recipient, Rosario Marroquín-Flores, a Biology doctoral student currently studying at Illinois State University. The Dr. Dolittle Award is given to a trainee in the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society who submits the best blog entry describing their research project. Congratulations on a well-deserved award for this guest blog:   Hot Chicks, Cool Dudes: […]

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Bee sting therapy – revisited

Bee sting therapy has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I have received a lot of questions about applications of so-called apitherapy to conditions other than multiple sclerosis, which we discussed awhile back. Let’s review the more recent evidence… While the practice of apitherapy dates back 5000+ years, only recently has this potential therapy been scientifically investigated. According to a recent review, bee venom has several peptides as well […]

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