ScienceScope

Science  01 Jun 2001:
Vol. 292, Issue 5522, pp. 1625
  1. Endangered Abalone

    U.S. officials this week added the white abalone, a California mollusk prized for its taste, to the government's endangered species list. Four years ago, biologists warned that the abalone was on the verge of becoming the first totally marine organism known to have been driven to extinction by overfishing (Science, 25 July 1997, p. 486). In an unusual move, the National Marine Fisheries Service declined to identify the mollusk's “critical habitat,” fearing that poachers might use the information to clean out the estimated 3000 abalone that remain on deep-water reefs off California.

    CREDIT: KEVIN LAFFERTY/USGS

    Meanwhile, biologists are trying to raise the creatures in captivity. The Abalone Restoration Consortium last month reported that it had coaxed three captive abalones into producing 6 million fertilized eggs. Eventually, the group hopes to release 10,000 young abalones a year into the wild.

  2. Whose Genome Next?

    These days, genomics—study of an organism or biological system by looking at many genes at a time—is considered cool by hip biologists. But with researchers jostling to get their favorite organism decoded next, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has decided it's time for a sequencing summit. NHGRI director Francis Collins says he has invited an array of experts to the National Institutes of Health campus near Washington, D.C., on 9 to 10 July “to develop rational guidelines [for sequencing priorities], instead of responding to the group yelling the loudest.”

    Large-scale international sequencing centers are currently busy polishing the human genome sequence and completing work on biomedically important species such as the mouse, rat, and zebrafish. But once those chores are done, says H. Robert Horvitz of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, the sequencers should take on species that have clear relevance to evolutionary biology, biomedicine, and comparative genomics. That might put some obscure animals at the head of the line.

    But don't forget an organism's PR appeal, says NHGRI adviser Maynard Olson of the University of Washington, Seattle. He would sequence primates next, even if they are not the scientific community's first choice, because the animals capture the public's imagination.

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