MBL Senior Scientist Marko Horb, director of the National Xenopus Resource (NXR), is quoted in this story.

Consider the sea urchin. Specifically, the painted urchin: Lytechinus pictus, a prickly Ping-Pong ball from the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The species is a smaller and shorter-spined cousin of the purple urchins devouring kelp forests. They produce massive numbers of sperm and eggs that fertilize outside of their bodies, allowing scientists to watch the process of urchin creation up close and at scale. One generation gives rise to the next in four to six months. They share more genetic material with humans than fruit flies do and can’t fly away — in short, an ideal lab animal for the developmental biologist.

Scientists have been using sea urchins to study cell development for roughly 150 years. Despite urchins’ status as super reproducers, practical concerns often compel scientists to focus their work on more easily accessible animals: mice, fruit flies, worms.

Scientists working with mice, for example, can order animals online with the specific genetic properties they are hoping to study — transgenic animals, whose genes have been artificially tinkered with to express or repress certain traits.

Researchers working with urchins typically have to spend part of their year collecting them from the ocean. Read the full story in the Los Angeles Times.


Source: Sea Urchins Made to Order: Scripps Scientists Make Trangenic Breakthrough | Los Angeles Times