Dr. Dolittle

The cause of stomach rumbling

The stomach and small intestine of many species moves rhythmically during fasting, something called the rhythmic ‘migrating motor complex’, or MMC. The MMC has 3 phases: no contraction, intermittent small contractions followed by regular large contractions. These contractions are thought to help clean the GI tract by moving along debris and bacteria as well as preparing our guts for the…

The story begins in 1999 when Leonie, a zebra shark (aka a leopard shark in Australia), was captured from the wild. In 2006 she was transferred to Reef HQ Aquarium in Queensland, Australia where she met her mate. By 2008, she had started laying eggs and the pair had multiple litters of offspring through sexual reproduction. After her…

Ammonia tolerance of goldfish

Liver failure or congenital defects can lead to a build-up of ammonia in the brain of mammals resulting in life-threatening swelling, convulsions and comas. For goldfish (Carassius auratus), environmental exposure to ammonia causes reversible swelling of the brain. In a new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, researchers wanted…

Why orcas go through menopause

Orcas are one of only three species of mammals that go through menopause, including humans of course. A new study published in Current Biology may have discovered why this happens in killer whales. Examination of 43 years worth of data collected by the Center for Whale Research and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, revealed a remarkable finding…

The obese marathon mouse

As the name implies, Dummerstorf marathon mice are bred to run. If allowed to be sedentary, these animals can build up quite a bit of fat within their peripheral tissues even if they do not overeat. If given an exercise wheel, however, they burn fat very quickly. In a new study published in the Journal of Comparative Physiology – B,…

Top 10 new species of 2016

Drumroll please….. Out of roughly 18,000 new species discovered this past year, the International Institute for Species Exploration at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry has narrowed down the top 10 to the following: I am rather partial to tortoises myself. What were your favorites?

Pigeons can identify words

A study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides evidence that pigeons can learn to recognize words. That is after the birds were trained over a period of 8 months. According to the study authors “The pigeons’ performance is actually more comparable to that of literate humans than baboons’ performance.”…

We tend to think of carbon monoxide (CO) only in terms of being a poisonous gas. The reason for its toxicity is due to its ability to bind really tightly to our hemoglobin molecules, which prevents oxygen from being able to bind. In mammals, CO also decrease breathing rate. As you can imagine, it is a pretty terrible…

New research presented at the British Ecological Society, Liverpool shows that reindeer are shrinking. These findings come from a survey conducted between 1994-2010 in Svalbard, a Norwegian island, which found the animals have lost about 12% of their body mass over this timeframe. The research team thinks the shrinking reindeer phenomenon might be caused by global warming…

Why monkeys don’t speak English…

… or any other human language for that matter. Even though both monkeys and humans have the anatomical tools for speech, only humans communicate in this manner. Researchers had assumed, incorrectly, that the anatomy of the vocal tract (lips, tongue, larynx) of monkeys was not capable of producing speech. A new study published in Science Advances shows instead that it…