Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Amazing longevity of Greenland sharks

A multi-national team of scientists sought to determine the age of Greenland sharks (Somniosus microcephalus). These animals grow rather slowly (about 1cm per year) and are the largest fish in the arctic (>500 cm long), but their longevity was not yet known. The team used radiocarbon dating of crystalline proteins found within the nuclei of the eye lens. Because these proteins are formed prenatally, they offer a rather accurate way to […]

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How to grow a bigger heart…

…in alligators at least. Researchers from the University of Manchester, University of North Texas – Denton, and the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge – Grand Chenier, Louisiana teamed up to explore the effects of exposure to low oxygen on embryonic American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis). Alligator eggs are often laid in nests where oxygen concentrations can reportedly vary between 11-20% (21% is normal atmospheric levels). This is really important as issues related to embryonic development could continue to affect animals throughout their adult lives […]

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Genetically-modified virus stops Alzheimer’s disease

Check out this video from Reuters (via YouTube). It summarizes an exciting study from researchers at Imperial College London who were able to stop the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in mice by administering a modified virus to the animals. The virus worked by preventing the formation of the characteristic amyloid plaques that are responsible for causing damage to neurons in the brain. Importantly, the virus did not result in loss […]

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Can bees experience positive emotions?

A new study was designed to test whether bees can experience some kind of primordial “emotions”. In the study bees were trained to associate a tunnel marked with a blue flower with a sugar water treat at its end. In contrast, a green flower meant no reward at the end of the tunnel. However, when bees were exposed to flowers with both hues, they either chose not to enter the tunnel or […]

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Using feces to identify species

According to a press release from Northern Arizona University, Drs. Faith Walker and Carol Chambers at the Bat Ecology & Genetics Lab have developed a system called Species From Feces to identify bat species from guano collected in field locations such as mines, caves, bridges, etc. The system takes advantage of DNA sequencing technology and an assay to look for genetic identifiers unique to different species using DNA barcodes. The sequences can then […]

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