Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Urbanization

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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Adapting (or not) to increasing temperatures

Birds are not the only animals experiencing massive declines in populations. Rising temperatures and heat waves, in particular, have been blamed for killing humans and animals. In fact, a new review article published in Physiology mentioned that globally, heat is “a significant natural killer of humans, with the first decade of the 21st Century seeing a 23-fold increase in human casualties from heat waves compared with the 1990s.” If current predictions hold true, […]

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Antibiotic resistance impacting wildlife

Bottlenose dolphins and humans have a lot in common…at least when it comes to developing resistance to antibiotics. After looking at over 700 pathogens collected from 171 wild Bottlenose dolphins captured in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida, researchers discovered that 88.2% of the pathogens were resistant to at least one antibiotic. The pathogens were especially resistant to erythromycin (91.6%) and ampicillin (77.3%). The animals were likely exposed to antibiotics […]

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Don’t feed the birds – urban crows have higher cholesterol

If you have ever been to a fast food restaurant, you may have noticed that people are not the only consumers of fast food. In fact, some species of birds are known to frequent fast food chains where they can get a quick meal of food leftover or intentionally dropped by customers. While people may delight in tossing our feathered friends a french fry on occasion, a new study published […]

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Polar bears summering on land exposed to more pathogens

Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) living near the southern Beaufort Sea are spending more time on land during the summer months than in years past as a result of climate change and melting sea ice. Researchers wanted to know whether bears that spent more time on land were exposed to more pathogens compared to those who spent more time on sea ice. Their results, published in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, showed […]

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Animals that eat plastic?

Have you seen this? A video just released by Yellowstone National Park talks about how some heat-loving microorganisms can break down plastics. Pretty cool.   Not so cool was the recent finding published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences that Astrangia poculata coral polyps are eating microplastics instead of brine shrimp eggs…on purpose. In the lab, the team were able to observe the corals consuming nearly […]

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