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UC Davis Discoveries to Chat About This Thanksgiving

By Cody Kitaura/Dateline on November 26, 2019 in University

If your Thanksgiving conversation gets a little slow this week or takes an uncomfortable turn, it may be helpful to have a quick diversion in your pocket. Thankfully, UC Davis research continues to make strides in all kinds of arenas that are of interest to everyone you are likely to share a meal with this week. Here are a few topics you can use to spark enlightening dinner discussion:

Potential good news for canine cancer

Have a dog-loving family? They might enjoy the good news story of Henry Hudson, a 4-year-old English bulldog beating cancer after three years. A mast cell tumor, or MCT, was removed from his leg, and he came to UC Davis for a type of chemotherapy that inhibits cell replication. Now he “spends his days now napping and snuggling with his sister. He loves belly rubs, popcorn, blueberries, and on special occasions, french fries.”

Cases like this might even become a thing of the past through a clinical trial happening at UC Davis. It’s testing a possible vaccine against canine cancer on 800 dogs.

How much does beef actually pollute?

You may not be eating a burger this Thursday, but you can still turn the conversation topic to the beef industry and the ways it’s under siege from the growing business of meat substitutes. One way those companies have touted themselves is by highlighting the amount of greenhouse gases meat production creates, but a recent episode of the UC Davis podcast Unfold explored the size of “cattle’s environmental hoofprint and … how UC Davis scientists are researching ways to make livestock more sustainable.”

‘Molly’ fish clone themselves

Have any identical twins in your family? They might get a kick out of the story of a fish that originates near the border of Texas and Mexico which has been reproducing “unisexually” for hundreds of thousands of years. That fish, the Amazon molly (named after the female warriors of Greek mythology), produces genetically identical clones of itself that can be incredibly useful in experiments.

“It’s the ultimate twin study,” said Kate Laskowsi, an assistant professor of evolution and ecology. “I have genetically identical animals where I can almost completely control how the animal experiences its world.”

Read more about the fish on the UC Davis Egghead blog.

Why don’t any animals have three legs?

If your family traditions ever include a three-legged race, you may already know the answer to this one: Why don’t any animals in nature have three legs?

That doesn’t count animals, like kangaroos or meerkats, that use a tail to lean on at rest.

The answer to why there are no three-legged creatures might go way, way back: The code for having two sides to everything seems to have become embedded in our DNA very early in the evolution of life — perhaps before appendages like legs, fins or flippers even evolved, according to Tracy Thomson, a graduate student in the UC Davis Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. Once that trait for bilateral symmetry was baked in, it was hard to change.

How would an animal with three legs walk? Perhaps a couple adventurous relatives will be willing to try to find a way.  

How to be more grateful

Finally, if you’d like to just turn the conversation to something positive, look to Alison Ledgerwood, an associate professor of psychology who has found that while people tend to get “stuck” on the negative setbacks in their lives, it is possible to turn that around through intentional gratitude.

Read more on the Curiosity Gap blog.

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