Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Pets

Goldfish learn how to drive and target similar visual cues as humans

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev constructed a tank on wheels that goldfish actually learned how to “drive”. Using cameras, the “car” was able to move in the direction the fish swam. They then tested whether the fish could purposefully navigate the car towards a target and observed that the fish could indeed swim towards a target in return for a treat, of course. In a prior study, the […]

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Humans do it, cats do it, dogs do it…why can’t rodents or rabbits do it?

Did you know that rodents and rabbits are not able to vomit? This was certainly news to me. So, I had to find out more… First, let’s talk about the difference between retching and vomiting. During retching (or dry heaves), the diaphragm and abdominal muscles contract, which helps increase pressure within the stomach (and prepare the contents for expulsion). Vomiting also involves contractions of the diaphragm, abdominal as well as […]

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EB 2022: Modeling human diseases and healthy aging

I sat through a very interesting session at this year’s Experimental Biology conference called, “The Power of Comparative Models for Accelerating Translational Healthspan Research: Underutilized Lab Animals, Companion Pets, Old World Monkeys, and Pumas.” While the title seems to capture the general idea of the symposium, I thought I would share a bit more information about the presenters and their exciting research. Dr. Karyn Hamilton from Colorado State University presented […]

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Arizona Physiological Society’s annual conference: Part 2

Arizona’s physiologists met in October to talk about Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, urbanization, the evolution of walking and vocalizations, snow leopards, and diet. Here are the highlights… Oral Presentations: Graduate student Luke Endicott from the Arizona College of Medicine at Midwestern University, working with R. Potter and Dr. C.R. Olson presented their research exploring how zebra finches learn to sing and the importance of vitamin A in this process. Does […]

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Women tend to “mother” their pet cats

Often dubbed the “love hormone”, oxytocin is more than just responsible for pair bonding and feelings of trust. It is quite well-known by mothers who have induced labor (ever heard of Pitocin?) and is responsible for milk ejection during breastfeeding as well as maternal behaviors.    Given the role of oxytocin in human social interactions and relationships, as well as studies showing its involvement in human attachments to pet dogs, […]

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Are humans really just upright cats?

Okay seriously, humans are not actually cats. But, humans and cats do share similar nervous system control over how we move from one place to another, i.e. locomotion as described in a recent review article published in Physiology. The ability for mammals to finely control movement depends on two main control systems located in the brain and spine as well as sensory feedback from the skin, muscles, tendons, eyes, and […]

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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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Your dog’s internal compass

Apparently pooping is not the only thing dogs do that align with the Earth’s magnetic field. Hunting dogs are kind of like migratory birds in their ability to roam and find their way back to the same spot, while relying on the Earth’s magnetic field. In a new study published in eLife, the same researchers that discovered how dogs prefer to poop found that hunting dogs appear to use the […]

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Researchers explore why wild canids live longer than domestic dogs and why size matters

Ever wonder why some breeds of dogs live longer than others? Or why wild canids, such as gray wolves, live longer than similar sized domesticated dogs (20.6 vs 10-12 years)? Drs. Ana Jimenez (Colgate University, New York) and Dr. Cynthia Downs (State University of New York, Syracuse) teamed up to examine a common marker of aging in animals – oxidative stress. Oxidative stress happens when there is a build-up of […]

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