Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Ocean Life

Aging and Immortality

Have you ever heard of the ‘immortal’ jellyfish, Turritopsis dohrnii? These tiny creatures (about 4.5 mm) are aptly named for their ability to essentially live forever. According to the Natural History Museum, when these jellyfish are damaged, they can actually revert to a prior life cycle as a polyp and become an adult jellyfish (aka, medusa) all over again. This process is called transdifferentiation. Check out this video from the […]

Continue Reading →

Are declines in food availability to blame for the menu change?

Yesterday, we marveled over the recent sightings of two killer whales targeting sharks off the coast of South Africa. The recent uptick in shark hunting has scientists wondering how the loss of great white sharks will impact the ecosystem. But it also has some wondering why the orcas are targeting so many sharks when their diets typically consist of a variety of fish and marine mammals.   Clues may lie […]

Continue Reading →

Killer whales scare off sharks

A pair of killer whales, nicknamed ‘Port and Starboard’, has been terrorizing great white sharks. In recent years as many as 8 sharks (possibly more) have succumbed to the pair. Many of the discovered sharks were missing their fatty liver and sometimes their heart. While orca hunting escapades are not particularly newsworthy, the antics of these orcas have attracted the attention of scientists as they are altering the ecosystem. Once […]

Continue Reading →

Buoyancy and Balance

Existing species of coelacanths (pictured above) are descendants of a group of fish that existed about 410 million years ago, during the early Devonian period. They can be found in the Western Indian Ocean off the coast of Indonesia. These fish are really interesting because they have very low metabolic rates. In fact, their metabolism is among the lowest of any other existing vertebrate. Even sloths are jealous of their […]

Continue Reading →

EB 2022: Seals, seals, and more seals

Several posters at EB 2022 in Philadelphia this month were focused on understanding the remarkable physiology of diving seals. Although we may think of the image below when we picture seals, they really are quite the athletes in water. Kaitlin Allen (a graduate student working in the laboratory of Dr. José Pablo Vázquez-Medina at the University of California Berkeley) presented her research on Northern elephant seals and how these animals […]

Continue Reading →

EB2022: Facing Oxygen Challenges

I learned a lot about how animals adapt to changing environmental oxygen levels in the Experimental Biology symposium on “Functional Integration across the Oxygen Cascade in the Face of Challenging Environments.” Here is what I learned… The first presenter, Dr. Lara do Amaral-Silva (postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro working with Dr. Joseph (Joe) Santin), spoke about her research on adaptations in the bullfrog “super-brain” that […]

Continue Reading →

EB 2022: Adapting to a changing climate

EB 2022 was a fantastic meeting (as usual) for comparative physiology. This meeting marked the last Experimental Biology conference as each society will be hosting their own meetings going forward. I soaked up as much as I could and will be sharing what I learned at the meeting over the coming weeks. “Predicting Species Physiological Responses to a Changing Climate” The first speaker in this symposium was Dr. Hollie Putnam […]

Continue Reading →

2022 August Krogh Distinguished Lecturer, Dr. Patricia Schulte

Each year, the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society presents their highest award, the August Krogh Distinguished Lecture, to a comparative physiologist who “has made major and meritorious contributions” to the field. Dr. August Krogh (1874-1949) was a physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1920. He was very interested in zoology and joined the University of Copenhagen as an Associate Professor […]

Continue Reading →

Secrets to rockfish longevity revealed

Rockfish have gained the attention of scientists due to their exceptional longevity. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley sequenced the complete genome of 88 species of rockfish in the Pacific Ocean to try to find clues that could explain their longevity. While some are rather short-lived (ex: calico rockfish, Sebastes dallii, only live around 10 years), longer-lived species, like rougheye rockfish (Sebastes aleutianus), can live to be over 200 […]

Continue Reading →

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 […]

Continue Reading →