Physiology

First (Fully) Warm-blooded Fish Found

by Stephanie Pappas

The car-tire-size opah is striking enough thanks to its rotund, silver body. But now, researchers have discovered something surprising about this deep-sea dweller: It’s got warm blood.

That makes the opah (Lampris guttatus) the first warm-blooded fish every discovered. Most fish are exotherms, meaning they require heat from the environment to stay toasty. The opah, as an endotherm, keeps its own temperature elevated even as it dives to chilly depths of 1,300 feet (396 meters) in temperate and tropical oceans around the world.

“Increased temperature speeds up physiological processes within the body,” study leader Nicholas Wegner, a biologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries’ Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California, told Live Science. “As a result, the muscles can contract faster, the temporal resolution of the eye is increased, and neurological transmissions are sped up. This results in faster swimming speeds, better vision and faster response times.”…

(read more: Live Science)

photograph by NOAA Fisheries, SW Fisheries Science Center

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Blood of world’s oldest woman hints at limits of life

Death is the one certainty in life – a pioneering analysis of blood from one of the world’s oldest and healthiest women has given clues to why it happens.

Born in 1890, Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper was at one point the oldest woman in the world. She was also remarkable for her health, with crystal-clear cognition until she was close to death, and a blood circulatory system free of disease. When she died in 2005, she bequeathed her body to science, with the full support of her living relatives that any outcomes of scientific analysis – as well as her name – be made public.

Researchers have now examined her blood and other tissues to see how they were affected by age.

What they found suggests, as we could perhaps expect, that our lifespan might ultimately be limited by the capacity for stem cells to keep replenishing tissues day in day out. Once the stem cells reach a state of exhaustion that imposes a limit on their own lifespan, they themselves gradually die out and steadily diminish the body’s capacity to keep regenerating vital tissues and cells, such as blood.

In van Andel-Schipper’s case, it seemed that in the twilight of her life, about two-thirds of the white blood cells remaining in her body at death originated from just two stem cells, implying that most or all of the blood stem cells she started life with had already burned out and died.

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Image: [x]  Video: slate.com

See-through skin

A ’vein-viewer’ works by using infrared light to image the presence of veins underneath the skin: The IR light is absorbed by the deoxygenated haemoglobin within veins. The locations of absorption and reflection are detected and the machine generates a corresponding projection using visible light. Find out more about how these devices are used in medicine in this video: http://youtu.be/lk0HMqwreIo

(via @rossexton)

As children we’re taught the process of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and the story normally goes along the lines of a hungry caterpillar eats and eats until it can eat no longer, then it hangs upside down and forms a chrysalis, from which a beautiful butterfly emerges.

But what actually happens inside the cocoon?

It’s actually quite surprising, the caterpillar does not merely change its body a bit and grow wings, no… It dissolves. Almost entirely. The caterpillar excretes an enzyme which decomposes all the tissues and fibres into basic organic material, leaving only a few ‘cell disks.’

These cell disks comprise all the different types of cells in an adult butterfly - its eyes, legs, wings, etc. The caterpillar is actually born with them but they just remain dormant until metamorphosis. 

Once all the caterpillars cells have been decomposed the adult cell disks then start to grow, using the organic materials left over, eventually forming the butterfly that emerges a few days later.

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Home Sweet Home

Usually plastic and the environment do not go hand in hand, but artist Aki Inomata uses plastic to create an environment for her little pet hermit crabs in “Why Not Hand Over a “Shelter” to Hermit Crabs?” (2009, 2010-2013).

With the help of CT scanning to render a three-dimensional model of an empty shell, Inomata creates her base and then builds houses atop these shell renderings. These architectural wonders mimic the style of popular dwellings, from Tokyo house-style to Paris apartments. 

With these plastic hermit crab habitats, Inomata wanted to explore not only the hermit crab’s adaptability to new surroundings, but how we adapt as well. Immigration, relocation, even acquiring a new identity or nationality is more or less the human version of growing out of a shell, and finding a new one to call ‘home’.

Not only is this series an amazing symbolic representation of our will to adapt, but also a fun way to learn more about the life and physiology of the hermit crab, as the dwellings are completely see-through. Have you ever wondered what a hermit crab’s body looks like inside its shell?

A video of both the hermit crabs in action and how the artist came about designing the shells can be found here.

-Anna Paluch

The cerebral lobes are divisions of the cerebral cortex, the great big wrinkly grey matter that is commonly recognized as a brain. The grooves and bulges help to divide the cortex into 4 areas called the lobes. Generally, each serving different functions.

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The Flying Snake, Chrysopelea.

While ‘flying’ snake may be a misnomer, these snakes can glide for longer than the length of a football field. They do so by 'inverting’ the undersides of their bodies into a concave shape, causing air to be trapped beneath it allowing them to slither through the air, changing both their velocity and direction at will.

The empty purse because you’ve spent too much on merchandise? The bags under your eyes because you were up far too late reading fanfiction? That homework you should be doing now, but you’re too busy running a blog about your idol? Yeah… we’ve all been there…and, terrifyingly, the psychological processes involved in fangirling are likened to those of cocaine use. This infographic explains why we just can’t seem to shake off our obsessions.