Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Tag Archive for ‘bird’

Birds may stay warm with the help of red blood cells

Researchers at Lund University in Sweden were interested in understanding how birds adapted to cold weather. Birds can’t turn up the heat in their birdhouse, so it is important for them to find physiological ways to stay warm. While they can store body fat and grow more feathers for insulation, metabolism is the primary way endothermic animals create body heat. Mitochondria produce cellular energy (ATP) but can also create heat […]

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Shape-shifting animals adapting to climate change

A recent review of the existing scientific literature found evidence suggesting that warm-blooded animals may be literally shape-shifting to adapt to climate changes. According to Allen’s rule, animals living in warmer climates have larger appendages than those living in cold climates, which helps increase the available surface area for heat loss to the environment. Such heat exchange mechanisms are very important in thermoregulation to avoid retaining excess heat. The authors […]

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Scientists have come up with a word to describe birds stealing animal fur

Some birds are well-known to grab hair from living animals for use in their nests. In fact, you can spend quite a bit of time perusing YouTube video clips of birds taking hair off the back of animals and even people. The new term for this behavior is ‘kleptotrichy’, which in Greek means “to steal hair”. Check out this brave little titmouse stealing hair from a sleeping fox: Source: Science […]

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Oddity of mammalian red blood cells

Mammalian red blood cells do not have a nucleus, which is different from birds, amphibians, reptiles, and fish (see image above). Many textbooks report that the absence of a nucleus provides room for more hemoglobin within the cells, which is important to fuel the relatively high metabolic rates of mammals. Hemoglobin is an important oxygen-binding molecule that allows the red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues throughout the body […]

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Don’t feed the birds: help stop the spread of a deadly illness

The USGS is investigating a mysterious illness that has resulted in numerous reports of sick or dying birds with crusty swollen eyes (even blindness) and neurological effects such as tremors, inability to stand, and lethargy. The majority of affected birds are juvenile. The illness is rather widespread with reports of sick birds in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Since May, diagnostic […]

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Q&A with Anthony J. Basile: Please do not feed the birds? – Effects of an urban diet on mourning doves

We are delighted to share this interview with Evolutionary Biology PhD Candidate, Anthony Basile, MS, NDTR, who is working with Dr. Karen Sweazea at Arizona State University. We asked Anthony about his research that he presented at the 2021 Experimental Biology conference. What made you interested in studying the effects of urbanization on doves? I’m sure everyone reading this has seen a bird walking around with bread or French fries […]

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Live fast, die young

Researchers have long known that smaller animals have higher metabolisms and tend to die younger than larger animals. Think about it – a mouse typically only lives about 2 years whereas an elephant in the wild may live 50-70 years, depending on the species. After studying over 700 species of birds and 540 species of mammals, scientists discovered that migratory animals also live faster (mature and reproduce earlier) and die […]

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Extreme flight

May I have a drumroll please? The winner is…..the bar-tailed godwit!! *round of applause!!!!* The winner of what you may ask? This bird broke the world record for the longest non-stop flight – 7,500 miles – without the luxury of in-flight service. I bet it was hungry when it landed…

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Why being ‘bird-brained’ may actually be a compliment

It has long been suspected that birds (and reptiles) were not very smart because they lack a neocortex – the part of the brain that is responsible for working memory, perception, problem solving, and conscious thought in mammals. In stark contrast to this idea, studies have repeatedly shown that several species of birds have very good memories as well as planning and problem solving skills (see examples below), which has […]

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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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