RESOURCES: Evolutionary biology's new star

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Science  20 Jan 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5759, pp. 311
DOI: 10.1126/science.311.5759.311a

The starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis has no head, no brain, and uses the same body opening for eating and excreting. But the genes of this seemingly simple mud dweller may hold clues to vexing puzzles in animal evolution, such as the emergence of bilateral symmetry and the origin of mesoderm, the versatile embryonic layer that gives rise to muscles and some organs. Researchers can learn more about the creature and analyze its genome at this pair of sites from evolutionary biologist John Finnerty of Boston University and colleagues.

Nematostella has oozed into the spotlight partly because it's the only species near the base of the animal evolutionary tree whose genome has been sequenced. At the new StellaBase,* users can compare the anemone's genome to those of other model organisms or hunt down a particular gene or gene family. To help lab mavens, the site lists nearly 700 primers for copying Nematostella DNA sequences and points to sources of specimens from North America and the U.K. You can find out more about Nematostella's anatomy, distribution, and habitat at this companion site.

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