Dr. Dolittle

Frigatebirds and lambs

I was checking out the award-winning American Physiological Society’s I Spy Physiology blog and came across a couple of really interesting posts about animals: “If Only Birds Could Compete in the Summer Games” This post reported a study of how frigatebirds manage to sleep during flights out at sea that can last for weeks. By measuring brain activity, the…

Pigeons in the lead mine?

  With reported lead poisonings in cities such as Flint Michigan, methods to detect risk of exposure are desperately needed. Since pigeons live in close proximity to humans, could pigeons be the ‘canary in the lead mine’? Researchers at Columbia University in New York City measured the concentrations of lead in the blood of 825 ill or injured feral pigeons to…

Tortoise smarts

It must be Friday. I found myself perusing YouTube videos and I came across these showing pet tortoises that have figured out how to solve some interesting problems such as: Using the doggie door to enter a house… If that does not work, many have figured out how to just open the back door… Some have even…

Ceramides are a type of sphingolipid composed of both fatty acids and sphingosine that are important in maintaining the structure of cell membranes and cell signaling pathways. Given their structure, it is perhaps not surprising that levels of ceramide are increased in the brains of mammals after eating a diet high in fats as well as in individuals who are obese.…

What is that purple blob?

By now you have probably seen the video showing the discovery of a strange purple blob during an exploration off the coast of California. As a scientist what do you do when you find something new? You bring it back to the lab of course. Although it may take years to identify what it is,…

Physiology 2016

I am very excited to report that the American Physiological Society in partnership with the The Physiological Society held a joint meeting from July 29-31 in Dublin, Ireland. The keynote lectures were given by Dr. Jerry Friedman from Rockefeller University and Dr. W Jon Lederer from the University of Maryland. Dr. Friedman spoke about his research on obesity…

Snorkeling snails

Scientists have been wondering why Asian Alycaeidae snails have a snorkel that was seemingly functionless. While other snails that live on land have a similar tube with an opening that allows them to breathe while inside the shell, the end of the breathing tube (i.e. snorkel) on the Asian snails appeared to be sealed. A new study published…

The trouble with lights

A new study published in Current Biology presents data showing that persistent exposure to artificial lights causes mice to age prematurely. Not only did exposure to bright light alter circadian rhythm, mice living in 24 hour light lost bone density and developed inflammation and weakness in their muscles. Humans are not immune to the effects of…

Ducklings are rather well-known for their ability to imprint on someone (usually their mother) or something shortly after hatching. Researchers at the University of Oxford were interested in understanding more about learning and memory in ducklings. Specifically, they wanted to know if a duckling simply remembered what they saw or if they were capable of more complex cognition…

Teleost fish living in saltwater environments are constantly compensating for water loss. This happens because their surroundings have higher concentrations of salts than their plasma and the rule of thumb in Biology is: water follows salt.  Thus these fish must somehow compensate for water loss in order to prevent dehydration. One way they do this is by…