Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Urbanization

Shape-shifting animals adapting to climate change

A recent review of the existing scientific literature found evidence suggesting that warm-blooded animals may be literally shape-shifting to adapt to climate changes. According to Allen’s rule, animals living in warmer climates have larger appendages than those living in cold climates, which helps increase the available surface area for heat loss to the environment. Such heat exchange mechanisms are very important in thermoregulation to avoid retaining excess heat. The authors […]

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Don’t feed the birds: help stop the spread of a deadly illness

The USGS is investigating a mysterious illness that has resulted in numerous reports of sick or dying birds with crusty swollen eyes (even blindness) and neurological effects such as tremors, inability to stand, and lethargy. The majority of affected birds are juvenile. The illness is rather widespread with reports of sick birds in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Since May, diagnostic […]

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Q&A with Dr. Jon Harrison, Meredith Johnson, and Jordan Glass

We recently interviewed Meredith Johnson (graduate student), Jordan Glass (graduate student), and Dr. Jon Harrison from the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University about the research they presented at the 2021 annual Experimental Biology conference.   Q: You mentioned in one of your presentations that insects have an ‘unusual’ respiratory system. Can you explain how it differs from mammals?  Dr. Harrison: Insects exchange gases through blind-ended air-filled tubes called tracheae. There […]

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Q&A with Anthony J. Basile: Please do not feed the birds? – Effects of an urban diet on mourning doves

We are delighted to share this interview with Evolutionary Biology PhD Candidate, Anthony Basile, MS, NDTR, who is working with Dr. Karen Sweazea at Arizona State University. We asked Anthony about his research that he presented at the 2021 Experimental Biology conference. What made you interested in studying the effects of urbanization on doves? I’m sure everyone reading this has seen a bird walking around with bread or French fries […]

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White-footed mice provide clues on the impact of prolonged exposure to light on health

Margaret Newport, graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Holly Bates at Trent University presented results from her research on the effects of daylength (i.e. photoperiod) on body fat and circadian rhythm in white-footed mice at the 2021 Experimental Biology conference. Both photoperiod (length of daylight) as well as temperature naturally vary with changing seasons and can impact an organism’s physiology. To differentiate between the effects of temperature and photoperiod, the research team […]

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The evolution of sugar addiction

I have been opening Christmas cards and pondering the science of sugar addiction, admittedly while snacking on sugar cookies – ‘tis the season after all! Excess consumption of highly palatable (i.e. quite tasty) foods as well as sedentary lifestyles are thought to be at the root of the current obesity epidemic. In fact, it is thought that as many as 30% of people living in developed countries are either overweight […]

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Live fast, die young

Researchers have long known that smaller animals have higher metabolisms and tend to die younger than larger animals. Think about it – a mouse typically only lives about 2 years whereas an elephant in the wild may live 50-70 years, depending on the species. After studying over 700 species of birds and 540 species of mammals, scientists discovered that migratory animals also live faster (mature and reproduce earlier) and die […]

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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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Final highlights from the 2019 Arizona Physiological Society conference

Here are some additional comparative physiology highlights from the 2019 Arizona Physiological Society poster session: Researchers at Arizona State University compared the physiology of Gambel’s quail (Callipepla gambelii) living in urbanized and less developed areas. They found that birds living in more urbanized areas were larger and had more circulating lipids than birds living in areas that were less developed. (A Funk, P Hutton, S Earl, P Deviche, and K Sweazea. […]

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