Hi folks! Bouncing Bertie Boffin here. It's been too long since I posted about an important scientific matter, hasn't it?
Apropos my recent paw-related infirmities (and nothing whatsoever to do with last week's diet of whisky-laced buttermilk ice cream) I have lately had cause to ponder the relationship between fitness and exercise, in both humans and other animals. For example, my human Gail has been complaining about her being unfit due to my intermittent lameness (yes I know, so selfish, but what can you do?) But as soon as my paws stop hurting, I feel as bouncy as ever, even when I have been doing little but lounging on the sofa for the preceding few weeks.
Well I am delighted to report that scientists have not neglected the puzzling question of how some animals stay super fit despite distinctly couch potato-ish habits. You can read all about recent work on this topic here, or, for those of you who are 'time poor', I have summarised the main points below:
Have you ever thought about how the barnacle goose prepares for its 3000 km migration? No need for tiresome marathon-style training sessions for them, apparently. Rather, according to environmental physiologist Lewis Halsey, "they just basically sit on the water and eat a lot".
Likewise, how fortunate the black or brown bear. Unlike your typical human, whose muscles tend to dissolve into unsightly flab over the months of darkness (in Aberdeen at least), lucky Bruin emerges from hibernation with muscles as ripped as when he stepped into his winter hidey hole.
It seems that migratory birds and hibernating animals have genes which respond to cues like daylight or temperature and these genes act to preserve or enhance their muscle mass. Humans do not possess this useful evolutionary adaptation, due to their different lifestyle, and so have been forced to invent the gym and the exercise bike.
It is not yet clear where dogs and cats sit on this evolutionary 'no pain, no gain' spectrum, although based on my own personal observations, I hypothesise that we pups would be somewhere between the barnacle goose and the human.
I wonder if my friends can contribute any useful data about whether the human or non-human species in their household find it easier to maintain themselves in tip top condition? If so, do please leave a comment. No detail, however trivial, need be omitted. Who knows, I may even publish a scientific paper on the findings...
[PS On the subject of evolution, Gail has reminded me to tell you about an article she has written on Darwin, recently published in online journal 'Assay' (edited by Tootsie's Mom). Personally, I don't really approve of her writing activities other than helping me with my blog, but you may click here should you actually want to read her piece... ]