Rat

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Tuesday was no less exciting than Monday! Here are some highlights: I thoroughly enjoyed a session called “Overcoming a Major Physiological Barrier: Adaptation from Saline to Freshwater Habitats” which highlighted the need for several species to shift how they regulate ion balance when they migrate between fresh water (ion absorption from the water) and salt…

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…

Shivering is one mechanism by which heat is produced in the body. Heat production is called thermogenesis. Another mechanism is through nonshivering thermogenesis regulated by brown fat (i.e. adipose). This second type of heating mechanism kicks in when we need extra heat production such as a postnatal infant, someone developing a fever, an animal arousing…

Cure to fear of cats discovered

…for rodents and men at least. A team of researchers at UC Berkeley have discovered that mice infected with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii lose their innate fear of cats, even months after the infection is cleared. In fact, infected mice were mildly attracted to the odor of cats. This side effect likely evolved because the parasite…

Why dentists may have rats to thank

  What does tooth decay have to do with rats? For Neandertals, tooth decay was a rare occurance. Research suggests that tooth decay became more prominent with the development of agriculture. Dr. Ordaz, Stanford School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed common strains of bacteria (Streptococcus mutans) responsible for causing cavities. They found that the bacteria began expanding exponentially around 10,000…

Not joking. Researchers have managed to take cells from a rat and add them to a silicone layer to form a synthetic jellyfish that moves much like the real thing. The hope is to develop more complex organs that might be used for organ transplants in the future.

What’s so funny?

In this video, Dr. Jaak Panksepp describes how he discovered that rats apparently laugh, producing an ultrasonic sound which more resembles chirping than laughter as we typically think of it: Further research by Dr. Panksepp has shown that young rats tend to be more ticklish that older rats and that “laughter” ceases when the animals…

Empathetic Rats?

I find myself wondering why a rat would choose to liberate a cagemate when they have the opportunity to enjoy a goldmine of chocolates if they would just leave the other rat locked up.  Dr. Peggy Mason, a neuroscientist, and psychologists Inbal Ben-Ami Bartal and Jean Decety conducted a study in which they placed pairs of rats…