Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

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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High altitude deer mice have less stress?

Animals that live at high altitude have evolved a number of physiological adaptations to deal with the low atmospheric oxygen concentrations (hypoxia). For low altitude acclimated animals, short exposures to high altitude results in activation of the sympathetic nervous system (i.e. the fight or flight response). This is a good thing because activation of this system results in more blood flow, especially to the heart and brain to help protect oxygen […]

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Does size matter?

  When it comes to how blood vessels function, the answer is yes. A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology examined this question for the first time in toads (Rhinella marina). Regulation of blood vessel diameter, and hence blood pressure, is a complex process involving a variety of factors that are secreted by cells in the vascular wall in addition to factors found […]

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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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Did you know just how interesting shark rectal glands could be?

In case you missed Shark Week this year, I thought I would mention a cool fact about dogfish sharks (Squalus acanthias) that you probably did not learn about. I read an interesting article from a lecture given by Dr. John N Forrest Jr, M.D. that was published in 2016 in Transactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association. Sharks have a complicated system for regulating water and salt balance in the […]

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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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Rapid switches in metabolism of hibernating animals

  In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers examined how changes in metabolism during torpor are regulated in 13-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus). During hibernation, these animals cycle between bouts of torpor (about 2 weeks each) when their metabolism is reduced by 95% and body temperature can drop to 5degC and short states of interbout euthermia when both temperature […]

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