How Vampire Bats Evolved To Drink Blood, Ethics Checks On Brain Research, Cicada Exhibit. March 25, 2022, Part 2

How Vampire Bats Evolved To Drink Blood, Ethics Checks On Brain Research, Cicada Exhibit. March 25, 2022, Part 2

By Science Friday and WNYC Studios

Science Friday

Friday, 25 March

How Vampire Bats Evolved To Drink Blood

Vampire bats subsist solely on blood: In technical terms, they’re what’s called “obligate sanguivores.” And the three species of vampire bats are the only mammals to have ever evolved this particular diet.

Living on blood is hard work. Blood is a low-calorie food with a lot of water volume, and very little of it is fat or carbohydrates. To survive this lifestyle, vampire bats have made numerous physical adaptations—stretchy stomachs, tricks to deal with high amounts of iron, even specialized social systems related to sharing food.

But how, genetically, did they manage it? Guest host John Dankosky talks to Dr. Michael Hiller, co-author on new research published this week in Science Advances looking at some of the specific genes vampire bats lost in order to gain these unique abilities.

 

Difficult Brain Science Brings Difficult Ethical Questions

In recent weeks, we’ve told you about efforts to explore and map the human brain through tissue donations, and the troubling tale of a bionic eye implant startup that left users without tech support. The two stories point to different aspects of the rapidly advancing field of neuroscience—and each comes with its own set of ethical questions.

As humans advance in their ability to understand, interpret, and even modify the human brain, what ethical controls are in place to protect patients, guide research, and ensure equitable access to neural technologies?

John Dankosky talks with neurotech ethicist and strategist Karen Rommelfanger, the founder of the Institute of Neuroethics Think and Do Tank, about some of the big ethical questions in neuroscience—and how the field might try to address the challenges of this emerging technology.

 

The Brief And Wondrous Lives Of The Cicada

The Staten Island Museum in New York has been home to the eye-catching room full of insect art since 2021’s emergence of the Brood X cicadas. In bell jars and cabinet drawers and under glass display cases, colorful cicadas from species around the world participate in scenes of human-like activities—they read miniature books, arrange dried flowers, create textile art, converse with animal skulls, lounge on and in jelly jars, and more. It’s all part of artist Jennifer Angus’ exhibition “Magicicada,” an homage to our reliance on the insect world.

Producer Christie Taylor talks to Angus and Staten Island Museum entomologist Colleen Evans about the wonder of insects. Plus, how art and science can complement each other and teach even the most bug-shy visitor to appreciate the natural world.

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