Life Lines

Dr. Dolittle

Research published last month in PNAS provides evidence that African elephants (Loxodonta africana) can differentiate human voices. This is a very important skill to an animal that is often threatened by humans. Prior research has shown that elephants could tell the difference between African ethnic groups using sight and scent. The study was conducted by…

New discovery about dog eyes

I came across this really interesting press release from the University of Pennsylvania that I just had to share. Despite having a close relationship with dogs for thousands of years, we are still making new discoveries about our canine friends. Drs. William Beltran (School of Veterinary Medicine), Artur Cideciyan (Perelman School of Medicine), and colleagues…

A shark’s perspective

Dr. Carl Meyer (University of Hawaii) and Dr. Katsufumi Sato (University of Tokyo) have teamed up to gather data about shark behavior in a rather interesting way. They flipped the animals upside down, which makes them relax, and strapped on cameras and instruments that will facilitate the creation of 3D models of shark movements. Using…

Researchers at Duke University are interested in understanding the metamorphosis of fruit flies from larvae to adult stage in an effort to understand how the insects grow new nerve endings as they undergo this transition. What is interesting is that the flies lose neurons they will not need as an adult and will grow new…

Congratulations to Nicolle Domnik, this year’s winner of the new Dr. Dolittle Travel Award to present her research at the annual Experimental Biology conference in San Diego, CA in April. Nicolle is currently a graduate student in the Department of Biomedical and Molecular Sciences at Queen’s University in Canada. The award criteria included the submission…

A paper published in Current Biology describes research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare the sound processing regions of brains in humans and dogs (border collies and golden retrievers). The subjects listened to almost 300 sounds (vocalizations from dogs and humans as well as non-vocal sounds) or no sound as a control. They…

The bonobo beat

Researchers have observed that bonobos are innately able to match a beat that was created by the research team. The bonobos demonstrated their musical skills using a special drum that was created to withstand 500 pounds of pressure, chewing, etc. The favored tempo matched the cadence of human speech, about 280 beats per minute. The…

Talk about unique adaptations. Here is a video showing how lungfish and desert frogs are able to survive for years outside of water during periods of drought. The video also shows how thorny devils living in harsh desert environments absorb water through their skin. These adaptations may come in handy with climate change.

Tawny (or Raspberry) crazy ants (Nylanderia fulva) are an invasive ant species from South America that have been invading the United States. For some reason, the ants are attracted to electronics and have been responsible for the destruction of numerous electronic devices. A new study shows that tawny crazy ants rub formic acid over their…

Coconut Crab

This animal is claimed to be the biggest living land-dwelling arthropod. In fact, this crab can reportedly drown in water. To me, its name sounds more like a fantastic dinner.