Dr. Dolittle

Through the course of evolution vertebrates have apparently lost their gene-encoded viral defense mechanisms. These ancient defenses allow plants and insects to silence the expression of certain genes by using what is known as RNA interference. This natural defense system can be manipulated to create genetically modified crops that resist certain infections. However, a new…

The marsupial placenta

Image of a tammar wallaby and her joey By Mathae – Own work via Wikimedia Commons   When I think of marsupials, what comes to mind is an image of a mother carrying her young (joey) in a pouch. Contrary to popular belief, however, mother tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) have an internal functioning placenta. Albeit,…

Attempts to save Houston’s bats

By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Got bugs? Get a bat. As many species of bats are insectivores, they help keep insect populations in check. Hurricane Harvey has been devastating to people, animals and property. So it probably comes as no surprise that there…

You may recall prior Lifelines posts discussing the devastating effects of white nose syndrome (WNS) in bats. WNS, Pseudogymnoascus destructans is a fungus responsible for the deaths of millions of North American bats over the last ten years. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, Dr.…

warm waters = smaller fish

I love fishing. As with every fisherman, I have my fair share of “the one that got away” stories steeped in *mostly* truth. So, you can imagine my interest in reading research that shows fish appear to be shrinking in warming waters. Warm waters carry less oxygen, which makes it difficult for fish to breath…especially larger…

Image of a genetically obese mouse (left) from Wikipedia. To deal with cold environments, mammals have several options. They could produce heat by increasing metabolism or shivering or they could conserve heat by constricting blood vessels in their skin or snuggling with a friend or insulating materials. With this in mind, researchers wondered how varying…

Avian vascular anatomy revealed

This is such a beautiful award-winning image of the complex vascular networks in a pigeon. The image was captured using  CT scan technology and a novel contrasting agent called BriteVu that allows visualization of even tiny capillaries. This image was captured by Scott Echols who is a member of the Grey Parrot Anatomy Project, whose…

Is your pet overweight?

Image of an obese cat by Jami430 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons   A new study conducted by the Banfield Pet Hospital (Vancouver, Washington) reports that as many as 1 in 3 dogs and cats living in the United States are overweight. The study was based on data collected by Banfield veterinary…

The failed feline spies

Wow. This is a very interesting bit of history on how the CIA tried to use cats as spies. But as any cat owner knows, cats do not always do what you want them to do when you want them to do it. Source: YouTube

A new study shows that walking your dog is good for your health. Here is a YouTube video summarizing the findings of the study: Let’s not forget that walking your dog is also very good for your dog. According to PetMD, some benefits include weight control, keeping your dog limber, controlling destructive behaviors and hyperactivity,…