Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Ocean Life

Getting away from salt – the transition to life on land

The transition of vertebrates from the salty ocean to life on land required the ability for these animals to change how they dealt with salt. While salt is essential for many cellular functions, salt balance must be tightly regulated to prevent illness or even death. Animals that live in a salty environment have evolved the ability to get rid of excess salt from their bodies whereas land-dwelling animals evolved the […]

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Amazing dives

Researchers at Duke University recorded how long whales stay underwater during dives and made an impressive discovery. Some Cuvier’s beaked whales were capable of exceptionally long dives. While most dives were less than 78 minutes long, one animal performed a dive that lasted more than 3 hours! Interestingly, the recovery times from the dives did not appear to have a clear relationship with the dive duration. Researchers think these animals […]

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We all need to get some shut eye

I have to confess that I have been spending way too much time binge watching shows about sharks during this year’s Shark Week on Discovery Channel. I know I should be getting 7 hours of sleep a night…but could watching just one more show be that bad? Speaking of sleep, I am reminded of a study that I read awhile back examining whether sharks and rays need sleep. This may […]

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It’s shark week!! Let’s talk about the spiny dogfish

I am so excited it is finally Shark Week on Discovery Channel! I look forward to this week every year. In honor of Shark Week, I found a neat study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology examining the rectal gland of the spiny dogfish shark (Squalus acanthias). This gland is very important as it allows the animals to get rid of salt (sodium […]

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The Effects of Ocean Acidification on California Sea Hare

Today’s guest blog entry comes from Rebecca Zlatkin. Rebecca ‘Becky’ Zlatkin was born and raised in Miami, FL and recently graduated from the University of Miami with a bachelor’s in Exercise Physiology and a minor in Biology. Previously a student at Miami Dade College’s Honor College, Becky came to the lab of Martin Grosell at UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science through the Bridge to Baccalaureate Program, a collaboration […]

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Physiology of diving animals: how do they deal with hypoxia?

Dr. Jose Pablo Vazquez-Medina (pictured at right), a comparative physiologist at the University of California – Berkeley, was scheduled to present several ongoing studies from his lab at the Experimental Biology conference last month. Dr. Vazquez-Medina is a member of the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society. Although the conference was cancelled due to Covid-19, Dr. Vazquez-Medina has agreed to share his research with us.   […]

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Dolphins can develop similar neurological diseases as humans

I am pretty sure most people would agree that dolphins are pretty smart. But did you know that they may develop similar neurological conditions as humans? I read an interesting article published in Drug Target Review exploring how dolphins that have washed up on beaches may help us understand neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s as well as responses to viral infections. For example, Dolphin morbillivirus (DMV) is a virus similar to […]

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Developing Pacific molluscs produce their own carbohydrates

Animals that develop within an egg, must rely on the egg yolk for nutrition for healthy development. While we have known that proteins and fats in the egg are important for development, the role of carbohydrates in the development of molluscs is a bit vague. A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology examined the role of carbohydrates in the development of Pacific […]

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First ever recording of heart rate in free swimming blue whales

While we are on the topic of whales, I found additional research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA on these animals and how their hearts function that I find fascinating. Talk about extreme physiology! Researchers from Stanford University were able to attach surface electrodes to blue whales using suction cups. This allowed them to measure – for the first time – how heart rate changes during […]

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Researchers explore how the largest animals get enough to eat

Ever wonder how baleen whales (Mysticeta) get enough to eat? The mechanism is described for rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae) in a review article published this past October in Physiology. Researchers have found that rorqual whales (ex: blue whales and fin whales), in particular, have an interesting strategy for foraging. The process includes 5 steps that take place in rapid succession (about 20-90 sec total): quick forward lunges toward prey; opening their […]

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