Brain & Behavior

City life makes bigger spiders

A new study from researchers at the University of Sydney shows that golden orb-weaving spiders (Nephila plumipes) that live in the city are larger and produce more offspring as compared to country living. When they say the spiders are big, they mean really big. The females can reach up to 20-25mm (males are only ~5mm).…

Scaredy snakes?

Dr. Greg Byrnes (Siena College, Loudonville, NY) and Dr. Bruce Jayne (University of Cincinnati, OH) discovered that snakes use more force than is necessary to support their weight when climbing.  To climb, snakes rely on friction and repeatedly contract and extend their bodies, a process called concertina locomotion. To study the forces generated by snakes…

A new study published in  AJP-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology suggests that electroacupuncture to the abdominal region may prevent increases in blood sugar concentrations after a meal by affecting insulin sensitivity and circulating free fatty acid concentrations.  Granted this is not comparative physiology research, I find it interesting that electrical stimulation can have such a large impact…

Previous research has documented a link between downturns in the economy and suicide among adults. But how do those downturns ripple throughout families and communities, and in particular, how do massive job losses affect the mental health of teens? A new study has found that, sadly, many teens are not immune to the stress of a struggling economy.

Mimicking geckos

Researchers at DARPA are using geckos to create biologically inspired methods of scaling vertical walls. Check out this video demonstration of “Geckskin”:

In honor of shark week…

In honor of the Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week”, check out these shark cams. National Aquarium Reef Shark Cam: Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream SHARK FIN CAM: Video taken from a camera strapped to the dorsal fin of a shark: Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream If you have not yet tuned in to Discovery…

Physiologist Laurie Goodyear (Joslin Diabetes Center, Harvard Medical School, MA) and her colleagues recently published a study in the American Journal of Physiology that shows how overexpressing a protein can increase exercise capacity. The protein of interest was tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3), which is a mammalian form of the tribbles protein found in fruit flies…

Super-sniffing elephants

Like Aesop’s fable, rats have another reason to be envious of elephants. Elephants also have significantly more genes that can detect different smells (i.e. olfactory receptor genes) than other super-sniffers like rats and dogs. In fact, compared to 13 other species, African elephants have 1,948 genes related to smell putting them ahead of the previous…

Check out this flying dinosaur

The discovery of  this non-avian dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi, that lived 125 million years ago suggests that flight came before birds. The fossil was discovered in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China by Luis Chiappe from the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, CA. At nearly 4 feet long, it is the largest so-called 4-winged dinosaur discovered. The term “4-winged”…

Brandy Velten (doctoral student) and Dr. Kenneth Welch (Comparative Physiologist) from the University of Toronto wanted to know whether birds with very different speeds at which they flaps their wings (i.e. wingbeat frequencies) had correspondingly varying types of myosin proteins in their muscles. Their findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology last month.…