Brain & Behavior

Parrot Pharmacists

Researchers from the University of York and the University of St. Andrews in the United Kingdom observed greater vasa parrots (Coracopsis vasa) using pebbles and date pits to extract a fine calcium powder from seashells that they would then lick off the shell. Their observations were published in Biology Letters. The birds were in essence creating their…

“Lethal milk”

Zinc deficiency is sometimes diagnosed in infants who are exclusively breast-fed. It can occur because of a dysfunctional zinc transporter in the mother, which prevents zinc from being secreted into the breast milk through a special zinc transporter in the epithelial cells of the mammary gland (Chowanadisai et al., 2006). It could also be inherited.…

Training pigeons to detect cancer

You are probably thinking, whose bird-brained idea was that? Well, as it turns out, a new study published in PLOS ONE shows that pigeons can be trained to accurately differentiate cancerous versus healthy tissue biopsies. This is because the process of diagnosing cancer involves visual screening of MRIs an biopsies and pigeons use similar visual processing…

Of all the slick woo peddlers out there, one of the most famous (and most annoying) is Deepak Chopra. Indeed, he first attracted a bit of not-so-Respectful Insolence a mere 10 months after this blog started, when Chopra produced the first of many rants against nasty “skeptics” like me that I’ve deconstructed over the years.…

A new study published in PLOS ONE that examined bitter taste receptors in cats may provide evidence as to why felines are such finicky eaters. Unlike my cat that seems to take after Garfield in his dietary choices, most cats are purely carnivorous. Cats are reportedly unable to taste sweets thus plant-based starches are not…

2015 Arizona Physiological Society

The Arizona Physiological Society held their 8th annual conference Nov 13-14 at Midwestern University in Glendale. This was a great meeting for comparative physiologists! Here are some comparative physiology highlights from the meeting:   The 2015 Keynote Speaker was Dr. Andrew Biewener (Harvard University) who spoke about “How do running animals acheive stability? The neuromechanical…

It’s not surprising that food insecurity has a negative health and academic impact on young children — numerous studies have come to that conclusion. However, a new study has begun to dig a little deeper into the topic, zeroing in on the lingering aftermath of the Great Recession, when food insecurity and child poverty reached record levels, and examining the particular effects of transitioning from not worrying about having enough food to living in a household with limited or uncertain access to food.

The amazing cockroach

I’ll admit I get a bit squeamish when I see a cockroach. However, after reading new research about the “ew” inspiring creatures, I have a bit more respect for them. Not only can these bugs run vertically up walls, survive nuclear war and live without their head for weeks (thus I suggest squishing the whole body), new…

This is an exciting weekend for science! This Friday and Saturday the 8th annual Arizona Physiological Society is hosting their annual conference in Glendale, Arizona. The keynote speaker will be Dr. Andrew Biewener (Harvard University) who will present “How Do Running Animals Achieve Stability? The Neuromechanical Control of Rapid Locomotion.” The Arizona Distinguished Lecturer will be…

Bat Facts

With Halloween quickly approaching, I thought it would be fun to take some time to appreciate bats. Amazing animals!