SITE VISIT: Lair of the Roundworm

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Science  04 Feb 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5454, pp. 763
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5454.763d

It's tiny, simple, transparent, and fecund—qualities that have endeared the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans to biologists and made it one of the most informative model organisms. Scientists have mapped the worm's development in unparalleled detail, tracing the lineage of each of the adult's 959 cells back through every division to the fertilized egg. And in December 1998, C. elegans became the first animal to have its genome completely sequenced.

If you'd like to get to know this wonderworm better, try the Caenorhabditis elegans WWW Server, a clearinghouse of resources curated by neurogeneticist Leon Avery of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Here users can search the worm's genome, download graphics and genomics software, study tutorials on lab techniques and equipment (such as how to build a fluorescent dissecting stereomicroscope), post a question or comment in the worm newsgroup, and even dig for worm-related jobs. The most popular feature, Avery says, is the bibliography with 3500-and-counting abstracts of published papers and conference proceedings. And for announcing new findings informally, the site offers the Worm Breeder's Gazette, an online newsletter. Other links lead to more than 100 labs worldwide that are probing the ecology and evolution of these soil-dwellers and their role as agricultural pests.

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