Dr. Dolittle

In a new study published in The Auk, scientists report that well-fueled older tiny Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (Archilochus colubris) might be capable of non-stop flights of over 4,000 kilometers, wind conditions permitting. They made this remarkable observation while studying birds from 2010-2014 as the animals made stopovers at a wildlife refuge during their annual migration to South America. In general, older birds not only…

Why so many of us sleep

A special thank you to reader Dr. Barbara Goodman, Professor of Physiology at Sanford School of Medicine of the University of South Dakota who sent me a story from The Scientist about sleep in animals complete with footage of a dolphin that was seen apparently “sleeping” (video posted on YouTube): Why do animals sleep? This is a question with many…

In a new study published in Physiological Genomics, researchers explored the role of genetics in the conformation of Tennessee Walking Horses. In other words, how close each animal they sampled looked to an “ideal” Tennessee Walking Horse.  According to Kylee Jo Duberstein (Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia), there are five criteria that are examined…

New species of octopus?

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) think they have discovered a new species of octopus while exploring the ocean floor around Necker Island (near Hawaii). The octopus was found 4,290 meters deep. Interestingly, fins were absent from the pale octopus, which NOAA scientist Michael Vecchione noted was unusual for an octopus living…

Just how smart are pigeons?

Despite their reputation as nuisance species, modern pigeons are pretty smart: Here are three other cool facts about pigeons: Videos from YouTube.

Dodo redemption

  Using computed tomography (CT) scans of an intact skull, researchers have discovered that extinct dodo birds (Raphus cucullatus), despite having a rather silly name, were actually pretty smart. Well, as smart as a pigeon at least, and pigeons are pretty smart. Dodos likely also had a good sense of smell based on measurements of the olfactory portion…

Exercise grows bigger fish

A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology explored the effects of exercise on growth and hormone regulation in gilthead sea bream (Sparus aurata). The main hormones that regulate growth are, perhaps not surprisingly, growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor. Researchers discovered young gilthead seam bream that underwent…

How woodpeckers avoid concussions

I just read an interesting blog entry from I Spy Physiology describing how woodpeckers avoid getting concussions even though they routinely bang their heads. By routinely, I mean an impressive 12,000 times a day approximately. I was amazed to learn that each time a woodpecker taps a tree, the impact is about 10 times that of an…

Mystery of the buzzing ocean discovered

I love a good mystery. This one has puzzled scientists for several years now…ever since they discovered a humming or buzzing noise in the Pacific ocean, an otherwise rather quiet place. This was no ordinary noise, that they knew of. In a recent interview on NPR, Dr. Simone Baumann-Pickering, Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla,…

I am excited to report that it’s that time of year again when the American Physiological Society hosts their annual video contest! This year’s Phantastic Physiology Voyage theme is “Function Follows Form.” Here is just a sample of the fun videos in the contest: Please vote for your favorite physiology video here!