Zoobiquity

Barbara Natterson-Horowitz and Kathryn Bowers, the speakers in Zoobiquity, discussed how the similarities between animal and human illnesses can help cure or identify human ailments.  They also explained the behavioral similarities of animals and humans.

This event was very interesting because of the many examples and facts that I never knew about before such as cancer being first discovered in the brain of a dinosaur or that Sue, the dinosaur in the Field Museum, had an STD.  However, there was an example that the speakers discussed that actually made me realize that some of the things that I thought that made us uniquely human are shared with animals.  One of these examples is the adolescent period in humans that cause teens to try new things that can be dangerous or silly can also be found in animals.  According to the speakers, animals go through a form of “rite of passage” and the most notable example is of the gazelles.  During the gazelle’s adolescent period, teenager gazelle’s do something called predator inspection in which they stand behind their predator, the cheetah.  If they survive, they live to talk about it to their friends if that is what they do or they get eaten.  This is the equivalent of teenagers driving and testing the limits of the law by either speeding or believing they can simultaneously text and drive.

Another topic that surprised me is how knowing animal physiology can help humans.  Natterson-Horowitz talked about a story in which a doctor started noticing that birds in her city were starting to get sick, stumble around, or die.  A few days later, humans were coming in with the same symptoms—they would stumble around, get extremely sick, and in some cases result in death.  When the doctor called in the Center for Disease Control (CDC), they identified the problem as St. Louis encephalitis. However, the doctor knew it couldn’t be that disease since birds do not get sick or die if they are exposed to St. Louis encephalitis and so she tested the birds’ carcasses until she correctly diagnosed it as the West Nile Virus.

In Biology, we learned that animals are Eukaryotes and are more closely related to each other than the other domains of Archaebacteria and Eubacteria.  Realizing the extent of these similarities and the medical implications of this information was eye-opening.  The behavioral similarities made me realize that although we are unique in some ways as being human, we share more similarities with the animals around us than we think.  Realizing these similarities can help us identify the source of illnesses such as the example above or even in the future help us find cures for diseases by using the knowledge of animal health.

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