Brain & Behavior

Sailing Spiders

Research published July 3 in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology supports the idea that some species of spiders can catch the wind to “sail” across bodies of water, which they suggest might be why certain spiders seem to be all over the world. While some spiders were already know to catch the breeze to travel by air relatively…

Weighing meal options

I just listened to a neat podcast from Scientific American’s Karen Hopkin in which she described a new study published in the Journal of Ornithology that suggests Mexican Jays (Aphelocoma ultramarina) pick which peanut to eat only after literally weighing their options. The researchers modified some peanuts to remove the contents. The Mexican Jays were then offered unmodified nuts along with the…

A new study conducted by researchers Eric Vaillancourt and Jean-Michel Weber at the University of Ottawa examined blood sugar regulation in a bird that specialize in long distance migration, the Canada goose (Branta canadensis, image above). As referenced in the study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, Canadian geese migrate approximately 7,000…

Analyzing online searches and social media activity has often been suggested as a way to track and maybe even predict the spread of diseases. And it’s a great idea — if it’s done right, it could offer public health workers real-time surveillance and a jumpstart at containing dangerous outbreaks. But there’s a hitch. How can we attempt to decipher between online activity triggered by the possibility of actual disease symptoms and online activity triggered by simple curiosity?

Nature’s camouflage

Could you imagine artificial skin capable of quickly changing colors to communicate or hide? Scientists have been testing ways to mimic the skin of cephalopods like squid, octopuses and cuttlefish, which have a remarkable ability to change skin color and sometimes even texture to mimic their surroundings. Cephalopods have networks of chromatophores, which are cells within…

Just one more example of how much humans and chimpanzees have in common. Check out this podcast describing wild chimpanzees seen drinking fermented tree sap as well as the video below. Supplement video uploaded by the study’s authors (Hockings et al., Royal Society Open Science, 2015) on Youtube. Sources: Scientific American KJ Hockings, N Bryson-Morrison,…

If you have not already had a chance to see it, the T. Rex Autopsy airing on the National Geographic channel is a must-see! They literally created a model of T. Rex based on available evidence about T. Rex and other dinosaurs as well as evidence from modern birds and then performed an “autopsy”. The conclusion: T.…

Are Pigs Really Like People?

We hear this all the time. Pig physiology is like people physiology. Pigs and humans have the same immune system, same digestive system, get the same diseases. Pigs are smart like people are smart. Pigs are smarter than dogs. And so on. Ask a faunal expert in archaeology or a human paleoanatomist: Pig teeth are…

Dr. Walter Arnold (University of Vienna) and colleagues were interested in studying how Northern ungulates cope (physiologically) with limited food supplies during the winter months. Ungulates are known to reduce energy expenditure during the winter. A new study published Wednesday in the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology describes how these animals adjust their nutritional intake. Dr. Arnold’s team examined intestinal transport…

“Inclusion bodies – those clumps of protein that are found in the brain cells of Alzheimer’s patients – are, sadly, a product of aging,” says Dr. Maya Schuldiner. “They can form naturally in practically all cells, but when these cells get old, the mechanism for clearing them away starts to fail.” That is not great…