The curious metabolism of pigs, pandas and pika (chu) s

The curious metabolism of pigs, pandas and pika (chu) s

There is still a lot to learn about how the bodies of the more exotic and less studied animals live and function. I have already mentioned in the previous columns curiosity about the metabolism of otters and a species of birds (chicken tit) whose name in English is, priceless, “great tits”. These animals keep themselves warm by using their internal heaters such as mitochondriawhich are normally the batteries of our cells, as they provide us with energy.

Another small animal that survives the winter without hibernating is the Qinghai Tibetan Plateau pika, a small 140-gram rodent that reportedly inspired the video game character Pikachu. It is rare for a small animal (smaller than a box of peas) to survive extreme temperatures (the average night temperature is -20 ° C) without hibernating, as small bodies lose heat more easily, having a proportionally larger surface area than contact with the environment. . To make matters worse, food sources to generate energy and heat are scarce in the region: vegetation is poor due to the cold and altitude and very sparse in winter.


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Alicia Kowaltowski is a Unicamp graduate doctor with a doctorate in medical sciences. He works as a scientist in the area of ​​Energy Metabolism. She is a professor at the Department of Biochemistry, USP Institute of Chemistry, a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences and of the Sao Paulo State Academy of Sciences. She is the author of over 150 specialized scientific articles, in addition to the popular science book “What is metabolism: how our bodies transform what we eat into who we are”. She writes fortnightly on Thursdays.

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