Science  17 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5691, pp. 1687

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  1. EDUCATION: Limulus in the Limelight

    The American horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) is a laboratory star. Its blue blood clumps in response to certain microbes, inspiring today's standard test for identifying bacterial contamination. Studies of the crab's compound eyes led to Nobel Prize-winning research on the neurophysiology of vision. To learn more about these creatures, which are actually closer kin to spiders than to true crabs, visit these sites.

    A basic primer from the University of Delaware probes subjects such as the crab's evolution—the earliest fossil is about 500 million years old—and natural history. Every spring, for instance, droves of horseshoe crabs scuttle ashore along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to mate and lay eggs. A similar site from the Delaware-based Ecological Research and Development Group highlights details of the crab's anatomy and development. It also supplies a hefty bibliography of horseshoe crab literature and features a gallery of art and photos. Both sites discuss threats to the crabs (Science, 21 May, p. 1113), such as beachfront development.

  2. IMAGES: Not of This World

    There may not be life elsewhere in the solar system, but there is geology, such as Mars's 24-kilometer-tall volcano Olympus Mons and our moon's South Pole-Aitken basin, a vast crater. Map-a-Planet from the U.S. Geological Survey lets you chart the surface features of seven solar system bodies, including Mars, Venus, and four of Jupiter's satellites. You can download maps based on a variety of measurements. For instance, Venus aficionados can choose among seven data sets, such as radar and microwave emissions, captured by the Magellan probe. The Galileo spacecraft snapped the pock-marked surface of Jupiter's giant moon Ganymede, which is larger than Mercury.

  3. DATABASE: Federal Science Register

    Could methanol fuel cells power an artificial heart? How did dark lizards adapt to the bleached background at White Sands in New Mexico? These are just two of the studies the U.S. government underwrites. This site from the Department of Energy offers one-stop searching of federally funded research. You can prowl synopses of more than 500,000 current and recently completed projects sponsored by six agencies, including DOE, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

  4. IMAGES: Killers in the Forest

    The fungus Discula destructiva besmirched this creamy dogwood bloom and can eventually slay the tree. The parasite, which is devastating dogwoods in the East and West, is just one of the non-native organisms gnawing, sucking, and sliming their way through U.S. forests. The new Gallery of Pests from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) briefly describes more than 30 insects, fungi, and other troublemakers. Many accounts include photos of the organisms and the damage they inflict, along with maps that illustrate their spread. The gallery is the latest addition to TNC's invasive species site, which includes a host of resources aimed at land managers. To learn more about pesky invasive plants, for instance, consult Australian expert Rod Randall's Big Weed List.

  5. DATABASE: Parsing RNA

    Researchers looking for broad patterns in the sequence or structure of RNA may want to check out Transterm, a tool from the University of Otago in New Zealand. The site lets users analyze RNAs from organisms whose gene sequences are housed in GenBank. For example, visitors can select a species and then determine how often its RNAs use each of the three-letter codons that designate a specific amino acid. The site also ferrets out motifs: nucleotide sequences or structural quirks that can affect the RNA's stability and how the cell reads it.