Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Pesticide confuses bees

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Guelph found that the use of certain pesticides impacts wildflower pollination by bees. According to a quote by study author Nigel Raine, published in CBCNews, the use of neonicotinoid-type pesticides “modify the way in which information flows through the nervous system.” The research team found that bees gather pollen more frequently, but less efficiently, when exposed to the pesticide compared to […]

Continue Reading →

Flight advantages in older hummingbirds

In a new study published in The Auk, scientists report that well-fueled older tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) might be capable of non-stop flights of over 4,000 kilometers, wind conditions permitting. They made this remarkable observation while studying birds from 2010-2014 as the animals made stopovers at a wildlife refuge during their annual migration to South America. In general, older birds not only showed up at the wildlife refuge in Alabama earlier than younger birds, they also tended […]

Continue Reading →

Genetic regulation of horse conformation

In a new study published in Physiological Genomics, researchers explored the role of genetics in the conformation of Tennessee Walking Horses. In other words, how close each animal they sampled looked to an “ideal” Tennessee Walking Horse.  According to Kylee Jo Duberstein (Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia), there are five criteria that are examined when evaluating the conformation of a horse. These include “balance, structural correctness, way of going, […]

Continue Reading →

Why so many of us sleep

A special thank you to reader Dr. Barbara Goodman, Professor of Physiology at Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota who sent me a story from The Scientist about sleep in animals complete with footage of a dolphin that was seen apparently “sleeping” (video posted on YouTube): Why do animals sleep? This is a question with many potential answers. It is known that birds and mammals experience slow-wave and rapid eye movement (REM) […]

Continue Reading →

New species of octopus?

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) think they have discovered a new species of octopus while exploring the ocean floor around Necker Island (near Hawaii). The octopus was found 4,290 meters deep. Interestingly, fins were absent from the pale octopus, which NOAA scientist Michael Vecchione noted was unusual for an octopus living at that depth. Moreover, its suckers were found to be in a single row on each of its […]

Continue Reading →

Beware of freezing hearts

Thirteen-lined ground squirrels (Ictidomys tridecemlineatus) are really cute when they hibernate (above). During torpor bouts, their body temperature decreases to a few degrees Celsius and their metabolism drops by as much as 95% with heart rates ranging from only 3-10 beats per minute. These bouts of torpor are interrupted by periodic arousals every couple of weeks during which their metabolism increases as body temperature elevates to 37 degrees Celsius. What is so fascinating is […]

Continue Reading →