This week in animal research: w/e 8th August
By switching off certain neurons in mice, scientists were able to make the animals cease eating. Scientists from the Caltech used laser beams to stimulate the neurons, which are found to be naturally active when the mice had eaten a full meal, or when they were nauseous or ill. It is hoped that such technology might be able to treat people with obesity or anorexia.
The eggshells of wild birds may act as a type of sunblock which regulates the amount of light reaching the embryo. Through studies on the eggs of 75 species of bird, the researchers concluded that the colour and thickness of the egg is dependent on the nest environment.
An octopus has guarded her eggs for four years 5 months, longer than any other recorded animal. A team at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has been watching the octopus since 2007 using undersea robots. It is believed the octopus would have survived without eating during this long brooding period, instead slowing her metabolism right down to survive.
A new malaria vaccine, which may be approved as soon as 2015, could help prevent 800 cases of malaria for every 1,000 children who receive it. Given that malaria causes around 800,000 deaths each year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, the potential for a vaccine could be a huge life-changer.
With a 97% drop in wild tiger populations, countries who wish to protect these endangered felines should embark on a proper survey to count their exact numbers. For instance, known numbers of tigers in much of south wast asia are approximates at best. By tracking and counting these animals, conservationists can help ensure that different groups come together to breed in the wild.
A couple of weeks after the Russians lost track of a satellite carrying five geckos to understand the impact of microgravity on reproduction, they have now regained control of the satellite. It is hoped the animals will land safely on Earth in September. There are also fruit flies and mushrooms on the satellite in order to understand how these species deal with the lack of gravity.