Incredible Animal Adaptations

Greg Laden reports that scientists have sequenced the genome of the Tammar Wallaby, which boasts "the longest period of embryonic diapause of any known mammal, highly synchronized seasonal breeding and an unusual system of lactation." The new research "provides a hitherto lacking understanding of marsupial gene evolution and hopes to have identified marsupial-specific genetic elements." Dr. Dolittle shares more amazing research on Life Lines, telling us seals can cool off their brains while diving to conserve oxygen. They do this by shunting blood "to large superficial veins allowing heat to escape to the environment" instead of "routing the blood through arterio-venous heat exchangers." And on The Weizmann Wave, researchers conclude fruit bats use more than echolocation to navigate after gluing tiny GPS transmitters to their backs. Bats released 84 kilometers from home made straight for their old haunts—as soon as they had a line of sight. This suggests bats "watch for prominent visual landmarks" to "judge their distance and mentally triangulate their positions," and could even "sense directional sea breezes or magnetic fields."

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Until I was sent this paper, I had no idea that Kangaroo DNA had not been sequenced before. How did we even know they had DNA?!?! This is the fourth Marsupial genome, after the Tasmanian Devil and and some other non-Australian marsupial, to be sequenced. According to Professor Marilyn Renfree of…
Seals are actually able to reduce the temperature of their brains to decrease the amount of oxygen needed to sustain metabolism during dives. In a recent study, the brains of harp (Pagophilus groenlandicus; shown above) and hooded (Cystophora cristata) seals were found to cool by as much as 2.5°C…
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Image of a tammar wallaby and her joey By Mathae - Own work via Wikimedia Commons   When I think of marsupials, what comes to mind is an image of a mother carrying her young (joey) in a pouch. Contrary to popular belief, however, mother tammar wallabies (Macropus eugenii) have an internal…