Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Why pigs and people absorb more sugar from their diet than fish

Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada compared how pigs and fish absorb glucose (i.e. sugar) from the diet. They did this by measuring how well glucose moves across the intestinal wall. Their findings appear in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology.  Transport of dietary glucose from the gut to the blood is facilitated by glucose transporters that pick up glucose and move it […]

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First ever recording of heart rate in free swimming blue whales

While we are on the topic of whales, I found additional research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA on these animals and how their hearts function that I find fascinating. Talk about extreme physiology! Researchers from Stanford University were able to attach surface electrodes to blue whales using suction cups. This allowed them to measure – for the first time – how heart rate changes during […]

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Researchers explore how the largest animals get enough to eat

Ever wonder how baleen whales (Mysticeta) get enough to eat? The mechanism is described for rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae) in a review article published this past October in Physiology. Researchers have found that rorqual whales (ex: blue whales and fin whales), in particular, have an interesting strategy for foraging. The process includes 5 steps that take place in rapid succession (about 20-90 sec total): quick forward lunges toward prey; opening their […]

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Tardigrades are not so tolerant after all

…at least when it comes to dealing with warming temperatures. In contrast to their reputation for being able to withstand almost any extreme environment (radiation, cold, drought, vaccuum of space), researchers at the University of Copenhagen have found that tardigrades may have an Achilles heal. They appear intolerant of sustained increases in temperature.  Study author Dr. Ricardo Neves was quoted in Science Daily, “The specimens used in this study were […]

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Resisting bird flu

I just read an interesting article from the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association that explained why human cells are typically quite resistant to bird flu. Bird flu (H5N1, H7N9, H5N6) does not readily spread between infected humans. In fact, most outbreaks involve only a handful to a few hundred individuals. But, on occasion, the infection can spread more easily leading to a pandemic. New research […]

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Bee sting therapy – revisited

Bee sting therapy has been getting a lot of buzz lately. I have received a lot of questions about applications of so-called apitherapy to conditions other than multiple sclerosis, which we discussed awhile back. Let’s review the more recent evidence… While the practice of apitherapy dates back 5000+ years, only recently has this potential therapy been scientifically investigated. According to a recent review, bee venom has several peptides as well […]

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71 New Species Described in 2019

Scientists at the California Academy of Sciences described 71 new species of plants or animals in 2019. According to the Academy, these included 17 fish, 15 geckos, 8 flowering plants, 6 sea slugs, 5 arachnids, 4 eels, 3 ants, 3 skinks, 2 skates, 2 wasps, 2 mosses, 2 corals, 2 lizards, and a partridge in a pear tree. Okay, just kidding about that last one. Dr. Shannon Bennett, Chief of […]

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Low-calorie sweeteners – harmful or hype?

Researchers at Columbia University wanted to examine whether low-calorie sweeteners disrupt glucose tolerance as there are conflicting reports in both human and animal studies. Their results examining the link between low-calorie sweeteners and glucose regulation in mice are published in the upcoming issue of the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. In their first experiment, the research team found no differences in glucose tolerance or body […]

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Importance of feeding chicks shortly after hatching

While egg yolks are rich in lipids, chicks consume mainly carbohydrates after hatching. This ability to switch between using nutrients provided by the mother in the egg and those the chick must acquire from the environment is important for the normal growth and metabolism of the birds after hatching. Delayed access to foods after hatching can therefore have long term effects on the animals. Transport of animals from hatcheries to […]

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