Dr. Dolittle

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…

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.…

Phew!! I just submitted my abstract for the Comparative Physiology meeting that will be held this October. Judging from the preliminary program, it is going to be an exciting meeting! Here is a description of the meeting from the American Physiological Society’s website: “Comparative physiology takes advantage of the diverse evolutionary histories and ecological settings…

Have you had a chance to see this video from Discovery News showing the flashy ‘disco clam’? A graduate student at UC Berkeley, Lindsey Dougherty, unraveled the mystery of this party-like effect. The clams actually have tiny silica spheres (340 nanometers in diameter) on the inside of their lips that reflect light whereas the outside of…

A recent article published in the American Journal of Physiology reviewed how the brain regulates feeding behaviors. Humans are not the only species to eat food in spurts we like to call meals. Research suggests that this behavior may actually aid survival as it reduces exposure time to the environment and makes responding to fluctuations in the…

Venomous ticks??

Ticks are blood-sucking arthropods that can act as vectors for various diseases in both animals and humans. A recent article published in Frontiers in Zoology summarizes findings that suggest ticks may also be considered venomous ectoparasites. For example, Ixodes holocyclus is a species of Australian tick whose saliva can induce paralysis in humans and animals. According to the new article, about…

Bone-house wasps

A new species of spider wasp that protect their young with walls made of ant carcasses has been discovered in the forests of China. Dr. Michael Staab from the University of Freiburg discovered the new species which he named Deuteragenia ossarium meaning “bone-house wasp” since the wasps reminded him of the ossuaries in Europe with…