I am thrilled to see Dr. Stan Lindstedt’s review article published in the April 2015 issue of American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology from his 2013 August Krogh lectureship at the annual Experimental Biology conference. My original blog from the lecture can be found here.
Dr. Lindstedt and co-author Dr. Niisa Nishikawa (Northern Arizona University), describe the importance of comparative physiology especially in an age of molecular discoveries. Not only does comparative physiology examine unique adaptations such as the ability for animals living in desert environments to form highly concentrated urine thereby preventing water loss, or the ability of bar-headed geese to fly over Mount Everest, but emphasizes that patterns may emerge when comparing multiple species that are often hidden if only examining one. This concept of “Unity in Diversity” was introduced in the review as one of the reasons why comparative physiology remains such an important and powerful field. An example given for this is body size. Animals of varying body sizes still possess the same types of cells and biochemical pathways, but this variable alone is fundamental in the regulation of physiological processes. Thanks to some experiments involving LSD and quite a lot of research since then (see article for specifics), we know that an animal’s metabolism is negatively correlated with body mass such that the metabolism of a small animal is greater than a large animal (think elephant vs. mouse). The use of comparative physiology is thus described as a major tool in developing novel hypotheses by studying patterns that may emerge through species comparisons.
Lindstedt SL, Nishikawa KC. From Tusko to Titin: The role for comparative physiology in an era of molecular discovery. American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology. In press. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00405.2014