Science  10 Sep 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5690, pp. 1543

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  1. DATABASE: Down at the Frog Pond

    The world's nearly 5700 amphibian species encompass baritone bullfrogs bellowing for a mate and wormlike caecilians slithering silently through tropical soils, tiny Brazilian frogs that could hide under a dime and lumbering salamanders big enough to tangle with an alligator. A clearinghouse of data on this multifarious group is AmphibiaWeb, sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley. The site is partway to its goal of posting a page for each amphibian species, with information on taxonomy, distribution, behavior, and conservation. Along with the more than 1000 species accounts, AmphibiaWeb holds recordings of nearly 100 frog calls and over 4000 photos. Above, the eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), which lives from Nova Scotia to Florida.

  2. TOOLS: Getting More Out of Gene Chips

    Microarrays yield prodigious amounts of data on gene activity, but the sheer volume can leave researchers asking, “What does it all mean biologically?” says molecular pharmacologist John Weinstein of the National Cancer Institute. This collection of tools crafted by Weinstein and colleagues can help the flummoxed winnow their results. For example, MatchMiner copes with what Weinstein calls genomics's “Tower of Babel”: Different databases and gene chip-makers often apply different names to the same gene. Multilingual MatchMiner can translate between, say, GenBank and Unigene nomenclature. Another tool, GoMiner, helps collate and interpret genes by function. The site's newest offering, based on the team's paper last month in Cancer Cell, lets you download and analyze expression profiles for the ABC transporter genes. Some of these genes help tumors evade cancer drugs.

  3. IMAGES: Protozoans on Parade

    Protist Image Data, hosted by the University of Montreal in Canada, holds information for everyone from students studying classification of algae to researchers hoping to cultivate parasitic amoebas. Visitors can explore the biology of some 20 genera of protozoa and algae, such as the ocean-dwelling photosynthesizer Halosphaera. An introductory page puts each group in evolutionary context. From there, you can study close-ups that delineate internal and external structures of the cells, get the latest on taxonomy and classification, or read about the creatures' form of reproduction (for Halosphaera, it's asexual). The site also lists sources that provide cultures of the organisms.

  4. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Developing a Gut Reaction

    If you've ever gotten sick after eating oysters, even smelling the shellfish can be revolting. This powerful reaction is a prime example of a conditioned taste aversion, in which animals learn to shun foods they associate with nausea. Round up the latest research in the field or delve into its history with this bibliography from researchers at American University in Washington, D.C. The collection lists nearly 2800 references (including the original description of taste aversion in a 1955 Science paper), many with abstracts or PDFs.

  5. EDUCATION: Dust to Dust

    You probably shouldn't drop by during lunch, but this Web site is worth visiting if you're curious about what happens to the body after death. Reflecting the ghoulish interests of ecologist Richard Major of the Australian Museum in Sydney, Decomposition lets you track the progress of decay with photos and time-lapse video. This piglet (below) has reached the sixth and final stage, with only hair and bones remaining, a point that usually takes 7 to 52 weeks. You can also read profiles of the “corpse fauna”—the waves of flies, moths, and bacteria that munch on and transform the cadaver.

    Major disinters a wealth of intriguing factoids about our return to dust. For example, although brain cells usually perish within minutes of our demise, cells in the bones and skin can persist for days. And fat deposits can form “grave wax,” or adipocere, a white substance that slows decay and has been found on 100-year-old corpses.