Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Stress

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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The great animal takeover – Recent lockdowns may shed light on the impact of humans on wildlife

The spread of Covid-19 has forced many cities to restrict social gatherings and encourage citizens to stay home. In a new study, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, researchers have termed this unusual disruption of human movement “anthropause”. This is a unique opportunity to explore the effects of humans on wildlife. Perhaps not surprisingly, some animals seem to be emboldened by the reduction of human interactions and are more frequently […]

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Worms turn bright blue with fright

Marine parchment worms have an unusual response to threats. They release a sticky bioluminescent mucus that glows blue. This physiological response is unique because the bioluminescence is constant as opposed to appearing in flashes like other marine organisms. In order to produce sustained light, the mucus would have to contain a source of energy. What they found was that the slime contained an iron protein called ferritin.  When the team […]

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Evolution of pain resistance

Could you imagine eating a pile of chile peppers or spicy hot mustard and not feeling any pain? The ability to sense pain is physiologically quite important as it alerts us to potentially dangerous or poisonous chemicals. Many plants (stinging nettles, pungent bulbs, hot chilies) and animals (stinging ants, scorpions, snakes) produce noxious chemicals to protect themselves from predators. In turn, some predators have evolved resistance to these chemicals. An […]

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Stressed out cat? Cat music may help

Do you have a stressed out cat? If so, try playing cat music, that’s right…music designed for cats. Researchers at Louisiana State University observed that music made specifically for felines can help them calm down during a visit to the vet. The special recordings (below) include cat vocalizations as well as sounds that are close to the vocal frequency of cats. The team found that cats who were exposed to […]

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Tardigrades are not so tolerant after all

…at least when it comes to dealing with warming temperatures. In contrast to their reputation for being able to withstand almost any extreme environment (radiation, cold, drought, vaccuum of space), researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that tardigrades may have an Achilles heal. They appear intolerant of sustained increases in temperature.  Study author Dr. Ricardo Neves was quoted in Science Daily, “The specimens used in this study were […]

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Resisting bird flu

I just read an interesting article from the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association that explained why human cells are typically quite resistant to bird flu. Bird flu (H5N1, H7N9, H5N6) does not readily spread between infected humans. In fact, most outbreaks involve only a handful to a few hundred individuals. But, on occasion, the infection can spread more easily leading to a pandemic. New research […]

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Researchers explore why fetuses that experienced intrauterine growth restriction have smaller muscles

We have talked several times about the long-lasting issues related to growth restriction of a fetus during pregnancy: Intrauterine growth restriction increases risk of cardiovascular disease as adults Intrauterine growth restriction increases risk of insulin resistance as adults It can also result in offspring that have smaller muscles. New research published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology suggests this may be due to adaptations to […]

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Ultrasonic rats

Dr. Charles Schaefer, a postdoctoral fellow working with Dr. Tobias Riede at Midwestern University presented research at the conference examining how rats use deep breaths to produce ultrasonic vocalizations. Similarly, researchers have studied a variety of vocalizations in rats that signify positive as well as negative emotions and how their brains process this information. Did you know rats enjoy being tickled?

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