Life Lines

Archives for March, 2011

Hemoglobin is a protein within mammalian red blood cells that transports oxygen for delivery to tissues throughout the body. Antarctic icefish (Channichthyidae), like the crocodile icefish pictured above, are quite unique in being reportedly the only vertebrate that does not have circulating hemoglobin. In fact, their blood is almost transparent because of the lack of…

Inflammation makes trout sweeter

Inflammation has the potential to be both beneficial and harmful. It is beneficial when the body uses it to help fight infections or help heal an injury. But inflammation can get out of control in some diseases and can actually become harmful resulting in insulin resistance and a host of other pathologies. Researchers have now…

Nest Decorations

Bowerbirds are certainly my favorite examples of animals that build elaborate courtship and mating structures, such as the structure shown below being decorated with blue bottle caps by a male satin bowerbird (image credit: Alan Fear). Also check out this video clip from the BBC showing bowerbirds in the midst of decorating. Home decorating may…

Bat Fuel

Breath analyses are not just for drunk drivers. A form of a breath test that measures stable isotopes (as opposed to radioactive isotopes) of carbon can be used to determine which fuel animals burn to supply various energetic needs. This is possible because as various fuels are metabolized, they create carbon dioxide that is exhaled…

Athletic Courtship in Birds

Elaborate courtship displays in birds are not uncommon and can be as simple as having fancy plumage to performing acrobatic acts to try to attract birds of the opposite gender. In male birds, testosterone binding to androgen receptors is a driving force for these courtship displays. It was unknown, however, whether testosterone is able to…

Kangaroo Breathing

Negative pressure is created in the lungs by lowering the diaphragm and expanding the ribcage, a mechanism used to draw air into the lungs (called inspiration). This is possible because air follows a pressure gradient moving from an area of higher pressure (atmospheric air) to an area of lower pressure (the air sacs of the…

Great Air Migrations

Here are highlights of my favorite animals that migrate by air: Bugs: Monarch Butterflies: How in the world does this little insect travel so far?? These butterflies migrate very long distances to wintering grounds on the west coast of the United States or in Mexico. You must watch this video clip of these amazing insects.…

Great Land Migrations

I LOVE National Geographic!! They have so many beautiful video clips of great animal migrations that I could just sit down with a bowl of popcorn and watch them all day. Here are some highlights of my favorite land animals that migrate: In Africa, wildebeests (shown in the image above) are perhaps the most well-known…

Great Ocean Migrations

Satellite telemetry is a widely used tool to track the migration routes of numerous animals. Previously, sea turtles have been mainly studied while nesting on beaches, but these observations do little to inform scientists of what these animals are doing the majority of their time, which is spent away from their nests. Satellite imagery has…

Worldwide vertebrate status

The status of the world’s vertebrates and conservation efforts were recently published in an article from Science Magazine. The study looked at various data covering the taxonomy, distribution, population, and threat status for 25,780 species of vertebrates (mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, cartilaginous and bony fish). Also included in the analyses were potential threats to the…