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New York to Sequence Subway Rat

NEW YORK, April 1 (GenomeWeb News) - Following the successful sequencing of the common laboratory rat, New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority has contracted with a team of scientists at Rockefeller University to study sequence variations in the genome of a common subspecies, the city's subway rat Rattus norvegicus indestructibus.


"Those wimpy, pampered lab rats wouldn't survive five minutes in this city," said Rockefeller researcher Duane St. Patrick. "They'd get fried on the third rail of the subway track. But New York rats run up and down those rails."


At a press conference announcing the project, New YorkMayor Michael Bloomberg concurred: "One time on

14th Street
I saw a rat jump five feet off the platform, grab a whole bagel out of a woman's hand, and run away with the bagel in its mouth - even the cream cheese. This is a serious public health issue for the city."


The project will look for single nucleotide polymorphisms and other genetic differences that may be key to the extremophile-like survival rates of R. norvegicus indestructibus. Among the potentially hereditary behaviors to be probed include the animal's ability to consume and digest large quantities of lead paint chips, to survive underwater for 20 minutes and to fall over 150 feet without skeletal damage. In addition, females are known for their ability to shorten their gestation period to less than24 hours if environmental conditions warrant.


By Mayor Bloomberg's account, the project should also be a catalyst to developing New Yorkas a major biotechnology research center. Under terms of the contract, Rockefeller scientists will be required to venture away from their leafy East Sidecampus and visit colleagues at NYU and Columbia, in parts of Manhattan that many of them have never seen.


The Subway Rat Genome Project will be funded with proceeds from a 50-cent increase in fares for subway riders which, as usual, New Yorkers are expected to accept without protest.


The project is expected to take six months, with only the last few weeks set aside for the actual lab work. Says St. Patrick: "The hard part is catching one, and we want to make sure we have several months in which to do that."


Editor's note: This is an April Fool's story.




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