Life Lines by Dr. Dolittle

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Tag Archive for ‘science’

Evolution of pain resistance

Could you imagine eating a pile of chile peppers or spicy hot mustard and not feeling any pain? The ability to sense pain is physiologically quite important as it alerts us to potentially dangerous or poisonous chemicals. Many plants (stinging nettles, pungent bulbs, hot chilies) and animals (stinging ants, scorpions, snakes) produce noxious chemicals to protect themselves from predators. In turn, some predators have evolved resistance to these chemicals. An […]

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Seagulls pick up on human cues to find food

Have you ever experienced seagulls seemingly begging for food from you? It is not your imagination. A new study finds that seagulls really do prefer foods that have been handled by humans. The study conducted Madeleine Goumas (University of Exeter, UK) examined whether seagulls picked up on cues from humans or were simply looking for food. While standing about 8 meters away from herring gulls, the team placed two plastic-wrapped […]

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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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Experimental Biology 2019

The annual 2019 Experimental Biology conference starts in 2 days! I am looking forward to the myriad of comparative physiology sessions at this year’s meeting. Sunday will feature trainee presentations on a variety of topics ranging from how the gut microbiome shifts in ground squirrels with the seasons, insulin resistance in horses, and muscle performance of lizards. Monday will be a jam-packed day filled with topics on how ectotherms regulate […]

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Cancer resistance in elephants explained

  Research has shown that <5% of elephants succumb to cancer. This is remarkable as elephants are massive, meaning they have more cells to replicate on a regular basis than humans. One would think having so many cells would increase the risk of these cells dividing improperly, especially considering that captive elephants can live for about 70 years. It has been known for several years that elephants have 20 copies […]

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Defining Physiology

Kudos to Mael Lemoine and Thomas Pradeu who recently published a paper in Physiology that attempted to define physiology’s place in modern science. Historically, physiology has held importance as a fundamental discipline on which other disciplines such as medicine and biological sciences were built. As such, the field of physiology has given birth to several modern disciplines including immunology, endocrinology, neuroscience and of course, the wave of “omics” research. Lemoine and […]

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Stem cell implant regrows axons in monkeys with spinal cord injury

  A new study published yesterday in Nature Medicine, presents research showing that grafting human neural stem cells into the spine of rhesus monkeys with recent spinal cord injuries improves the animal’s ability to grasp oranges. The researchers found that grafted stem cells matured into neurons (image below) that began connecting with the monkey’s existing neurons. This was the first time this type of research was performed in primates and may thus […]

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Individuality in woodpeckers

Animals, like people, have unique sounds that allow them to recognize individuals. For example, you can hear a great spotted woodpecker calling in the first portion of this YouTube video below. In another YouTube video, we see a great spotted woodpecker doing what woodpeckers do best…pecking at wood. Woodpeckers peck (i.e. drum) to ward off rivals as well as attract mates. In a new study published in PLoS ONE, researchers examined […]

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Zebra finches reward themselves for singing well

Dopamine is an important hormone released from neurons involved in reward pathways. Researchers at Cornell University wanted to know if dopamine signaling was involved in how birds learn songs. Their findings, recently published in Science, present evidence that neurons in the brain of zebra finches do in fact decrease dopamine signals when the birds hear an error in their song in comparison to when they sing ‘correctly’. The researchers also found […]

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