Dear Readers, this has been a science-packed weekend. Firstly, I’ve been hard at work on my Biology of Survival assignment with the Open University, and it’s fair to say that things have stepped up a bit since the first one – I had a few rocky weeks before Christmas and it’s been uphill all the way to catch up. Still, it’s not due till the 22nd February so I have a little bit of time left.
We’ve been looking at cold adaptation in rats – fortunately this is all done with cyber rats rather than the real animals, as if it was real ones I’d have to decline. Still, it is fascinating stuff – many animals (including little new born human babies) have something called brown adipose tissue (BAT) for short, which can generate its own heat. Normally we shiver when we get cold, but BAT takes the energy that we’d normally use for movement and short-circuits it so that heat is generated instead. You see it a lot in animals that hibernate, and in small animals that dive. The experiment should show that rats that are kept in cold conditions develop more brown fat, but I’m not sure that my pretend rats have. Still, let’s see how it all turns out when I crunch the numbers next week.
I’ve also been looking at a very interesting paper on, of all things, guppies. I remember one of my relatives used to keep guppies, and I was always intrigued by how different the males were – you could identify each one by the pattern on his tail. Apparently this diversity of colours is carried on in the wild, and the question is, why? You’d normally expect one pattern or another to become dominant, either because females preferred it, or because it was less or more attractive to predators, but this doesn’t happen. Is it because the females prefer novelty, or is it that predators have a fixed idea about what a tasty guppy looks like, and ignore the ones that don’t fit the stereotype? We shall see.
But most interestingly (to me at least), is that I’ve just joined a study run by Zoe – this was originally set up to monitor Covid, and continued to record data long after the government had given up. This particular study, though, looks at blood sugar, blood fat and gut health. I am currently wearing a very nifty blood sugar monitor, which sits on your arm – you can access the results via an app on your phone. I’ve been fasting for most of today, except for some bland muffins that are supplied so that everyone is eating the same thing. And half an hour ago I did a finger-prick test, which resulted in a bit of a blood bath (ahem – well I always was a bit over-enthusiastic). How it made me feel for my poor Mum, who at one point was having her fingers pricked in hospital every hour. And there’s a poo test to do too, but that’s probably far too much information.
I will be very intrigued to see what spikes my blood sugar and what doesn’t – I tried my monitor out with raspberries and icecream yesterday evening and there was barely a hump, let alone a spike. But these things are very individual, and it will be fun to see what my personal nemesis is. And also to see how my gut biome is getting on. I love citizen science, and my results will be compared with those for other people who are taking part. For now, though, I’m just glad that the fasting is over, and I’m off to sort out my Sunday dinner. I hope you enjoyed yours!