Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Ocean Life

What lurks in the water…

Dr. Craig Franklin from the University of Queensland spoke yesterday about his research with crocodiles. After evaluating hundreds of recordings from telemetry instrumentation and satellite tags of the animals, the data showed that crocodiles regulate their body temperature much like fish. This means that crocodile body temperature is often dictated by their surrounding water temperature. Dr. Iskander Ismailov, a Research Assistant Professor from lab of Dr. Michael Friedlander at Virginia […]

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Seals, seals and more seals

Several of the posters and talks at the Experimental Biology meeting in San Diego focused on Weddell Seals. They are not only cute, they are really interesting physiologically. Emma Weitzner, a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Heather Liwanag, presented a poster on Weddell seals, which are studied as models of the physiology of diving. Emma and her team recorded diving behavior and collected blood samples from 1 week-old […]

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Environmental impact on physiology

Several of the comparative physiology posters and talks presented at the Experimental Biology conference today focused on the impact of environmental changes on the physiology of animals. Here are some highlights: Rachel Heuer, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Miami working with Dr. Martin Grosell, examined the effects of crude oil on heart function in mahi-mahi. As the Deepwater Horizon spill occurred when these fish were spawning, it is […]

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Hagfish 101: How to eat a whale from the inside out

The Dr. Dolittle award is given to outstanding graduate students or postdoctoral fellows who are conducting comparative physiology research that they are presenting at the annual Experimental Biology conference. Applicants for the award are asked to submit guest blog posts describing their research. I am very pleased to share this guest blog post from this year’s Dr. Dolittle travel award recipient, Alyssa Weinrauch. Alyssa presented her research today the Experimental […]

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Fasting as a survival strategy in animals

Although female northern elephant seals only typically deliver one pup, females will sometimes nurse offspring from other mothers as in this photo by Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia commons. A situation like this would result in less milk available to each nursing pup. I just read an interesting paper published in Physiology. Animals periodically undergo periods of food deprivation such as during hibernation, mating, molting and migration. During these period of […]

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Viral defenses are encoded in their genes, but not ours

Through the course of evolution vertebrates have apparently lost their gene-encoded viral defense mechanisms. These ancient defenses allow plants and insects to silence the expression of certain genes by using what is known as RNA interference. This natural defense system can be manipulated to create genetically modified crops that resist certain infections. However, a new study by researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium examined over 40 organisms in […]

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Meet the amazing and ‘ew’-inspiring Pacific hagfish

Pacific hagfish (Eptatretus stoutii), aka “slime eels”, are primitive fish that occupy burrows on the ocean floor. Like earthworms, they have 5 hearts. They have no true eyes, no jaws, nor do they have a stomach. They locate their meals through great senses of smell and touch. In addition to small invertebrates, they are known for consuming carrion that fall to the ocean floor. By consume, I mean burrow into […]

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Sex differences in the evolution of live-bearing fish

Samples of fish species from the Poeciliidae family show the diversity in color, fin size and body shape. Kansas State University researchers studied 112 species of these live-bearing fishes and found that males and females evolve differently. Image courtesy of Kansas State University Dr. Michael Tobler and Dr. Zach Culumber at Kansas State University examined 112 species of live-bearing fish (Poeciliidae) and have made some interesting discoveries about their evolution. Their […]

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