Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

Sponsored by the American Physiological Society

Tortoise smarts

It must be Friday. I found myself perusing YouTube videos and I came across these showing pet tortoises that have figured out how to solve some interesting problems such as: Using the doggie door to enter a house… If that does not work, many have figured out how to just open the back door… Some have even figured out how to open the refrigerator… After watching these videos, I naturally went in […]

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Ceramides cause rainbow trout to eat less

Ceramides are a type of sphingolipid composed of both fatty acids and sphingosine that are important in maintaining the structure of cell membranes and cell signaling pathways. Given their structure, it is perhaps not surprising that levels of ceramide are increased in the brains of mammals after eating a diet high in fats as well as in individuals who are obese.  In mammals, ceramides are also known to help regulate food intake. Since rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus […]

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Physiology 2016

I am very excited to report that the American Physiological Society in partnership with The Physiological Society held a joint meeting from July 29-31 in Dublin, Ireland. The keynote lectures were given by Dr. Jerry Friedman from Rockefeller University and Dr. W Jon Lederer from the University of Maryland.   Dr. Friedman spoke about his research on obesity and how genetic factors might play a role. In fact, his team was […]

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What is that purple blob?

By now you have probably seen the video showing the discovery of a strange purple blob during an exploration off the coast of California. As a scientist what do you do when you find something new? You bring it back to the lab of course. Although it may take years to identify what it is, the researchers have speculated it might be some new species of soft-bodied mollusk. Check out […]

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Snorkeling snails

Scientists have been wondering why Asian Alycaeidae snails have a snorkel that was seemingly functionless. While other snails that live on land have a similar tube with an opening that allows them to breathe while inside the shell, the end of the breathing tube (i.e. snorkel) on the Asian snails appeared to be sealed. A new study published in Biology Letters shows that the tube of Alycaeus conformis is not sealed after all. […]

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The trouble with lights

A new study published in Current Biology presents data showing that persistent exposure to artificial lights causes mice to age prematurely. Not only did exposure to bright light alter circadian rhythm, mice living in 24 hour light lost bone density and developed inflammation and weakness in their muscles. Humans are not immune to the effects of disrupted circadian rhythms. In fact, people who work the night shift are reportedly more likely […]

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Study suggests ducklings understand same vs different

Ducklings are rather well-known for their ability to imprint on someone (usually their mother) or something shortly after hatching. Researchers at the University of Oxford were interested in understanding more about learning and memory in ducklings. Specifically, they wanted to know if a duckling simply remembered what they saw or if they were capable of more complex cognition involving determining whether objects had the same or different qualities. After hatching, they placed ducklings […]

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How the rectum helps prevent dehydration in saltwater

Teleost fish living in saltwater environments are constantly compensating for water loss. This happens because their surroundings have higher concentrations of salts than their plasma and the rule of thumb in Biology is: water follows salt.  Thus these fish must somehow compensate for water loss in order to prevent dehydration. One way they do this is by drinking a lot of water. Ions are then removed from the water in the intestines which […]

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Male hamsters pack on the pounds while females stockpile food for winter

During hibernation common hamsters (Cricetus cricetus) alternate their time between bouts of torpor during which their metabolic rate drops and body temperature is low and arousal during which body temperature is normal. Hibernation allows animals to conserve energy although it is not without costs as it often results in memory deficits, cell damage and reduced immune function. Thus some studies have suggested that animals with sufficient food stores will not undergo hibernation […]

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