The adorable snoring dormouse (video)

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Things I did not know before viewing this adorable video shot by Surrey Wildlife Trust Mammal Project Officer Dave Williams:

1) The dormouse, a little rodent species you'll find in Britain, hibernate in the winter in nests they hide on the ground.

2) The dormouse spends up to one-third of its life in hibernation, and typically begin that winter "sleep" when the first frost hits, and their food sources are gone.

3) They lose about a quarter of their body weight during hibernation.

4) The word "dormouse" comes from the Anglo-Norman dormeus, which means "sleepy (one)"

You can donate to support the Surrey Wildlife Trust's nature conservation work here.

(via @joeljohnson, photo: Dave Williams, Surrey Wildlife Trust) Read the rest

The trouble with lab mice

You've probably seen this caveat pretty often: Just because a study that uses mice as subjects produces a specific result, doesn't mean you'd get the same result using human subjects. Mice are handy research animals, but they aren't perfect analogues to humans. A mouse study is a stepping stone towards better evidence. It is something we do because there are potentially useful ideas that we should not try out on humans first. But mouse studies should not count as incontrovertible proof of anything.

Usually, when that caveat comes up, the person giving it is talking about fundamental differences between mouse biology and human biology. For instance, a mouse might only need one copy of a genetic factor to grow normally. Meanwhile, a human needs to have both copies or risk altered sexual development.

But there are other problems with mice, problems that have more to do with how we select, breed, and raise mouse models. In a fascinating three-part series on, Daniel Engber looks at how we undermine the usefulness of our own lab mice, and the risks we take when we do so.

If you put a rat on a limited feeding schedule—depriving it of food every other day—and then blocked off one of its cerebral arteries to induce a stroke, its brain damage would be greatly reduced. The same held for mice that had been engineered to develop something like Parkinson's disease: Take away their food, and their brains stayed healthier.

But Mattson wasn't so quick to prescribe his stern feeding schedule to the crowd in Atlanta.

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