The naked mole rat is the longest lived rodent species (>31 years). Unlike most mammals, they seem resistant to many age-associated ailments until much later in life, making them an exciting model of healthy aging. They are also resistant to the development of cancer as mentioned in this prior post. According to the CDC, cardiovascular…

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…

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…

The cause of “angel wing”, a deformity found in waterfowl such as ducks, geese and swans has been uncovered. Sadly, it is often caused by well-intended people feeding birds foods that are too high in proteins or carbohydrates (bread, crackers and popcorn anyone?). Not surprisingly, this condition mainly impacts birds that live in public areas.…

  Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in cat poop that can make both people and cats ill. It can infect any warm-blooded animal, including reportedly 60 million Americans. People infected with T. gondii typically have flu-like symptoms. Dr. David J Bzik in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth recently said, “We know biologically…

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…