Gut microbes and bird’s breath from the U at #SICB2017


University of Utah researchers will be among the scientists convening in New Orleans for the 2017 Annual Meeting for the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology Jan. 4-8 (#SICB2017.) Attendees gather to the research and educational forum to share recent findings and navigate the future challenges in their respective fields.

Below are summaries of select presentations at the meeting for Friday, Jan 6. All times are in Central Standard Time.

Herbivorous woodrats ingest toxins with a little help from microbial friends

Many herbivorous mammals thrive by eating plants that contain natural toxins without being poisoned. Scientists have suspected that gut microbes allowed mammals to process the dietary toxins, but have been unable test the hypothesis. Now, researchers at the University of Utah have found that a diverse, active community of gut microbes are critical for herbivorous woodrats to ingest the naturally-occurring toxins in the plants that they eat. The team found that transferring the woodrats' microbes into the guts of other species improved their ability to deal with toxic diets, which has promising applications in human health and animal husbandry.

S5-7: Beyond Fermentation: Gut microbes reduce toxicity of herbivore diets
Friday, Jan. 6 2017, 11:30 a.m.-12 p.m., The New Orleans Conference Center – Rm 208/209
Denise Dearing, professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah, [email protected]

One-way airflow in birds, lizards and crocodiles

Bird breath is complicated. Whether birds are inhaling or exhaling, the air flows in one direction through a loop in the bird's lungs. The one-way flow is controlled by a complex system of aerodynamic valves and air sacs arranged in a puzzling pattern that has fascinated biologists for years. For example, when the bird inhales, the fresh air travels through the airway loop before flowing into a set of air sacs called the cranial air sacs. Why doesn't the air flow directly into the cranial air sacs and bypass the circuit? Which twists and turns are critical to one-way airflow, and which are not? Since discovering that lizards and crocodiles also have a one-directional flow pattern, Colleen Farmer, biologist from the University of Utah, can now compare the two systems to see which features of the complex anatomy have been evolutionarily conserved.

64-1: Pulmonary Aerodynamic Valves: Form, Function, Evolution
Friday, Jan. 6 2017, 1:30-1:45 p.m., The New Orleans Conference Center – Rm 219
Colleen Farmer, professor, Department of Biology, University of Utah, [email protected]

More abstracts presented or co-authored by researchers from the University of Utah:

P2-275: Biotransformation enzyme expression in nasal epithelium of woodrats consuming juniper

64-3: Ventilatory rib kinematics in the savannah monitor, Varanus exanthematicus: an XROMM study


Media Contact

Lisa Potter, science writer, University of Utah
[email protected]

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