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This Week in Nature: Aug 21, 2008

Scientists have sequenced and analyzed the 98 million-base pair genome of the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens, a simple organism belonging to the 'eumetazoan' clade. Whole-genome analysis showed diverse transcription factor and signaling pathway genes that suggest complexity in this primitive life form.

University of Bremen researchers have found that most cells in deep-sea sediment are members of the domain Archaea and not Bacteria. Using modified qPCR and slot-blot hybridization protocols, they found that scientists had previously underestimated archaeal biomass. Says a related News and Views article, "Archaea and Bacteria are fundamentally different from each other in their biochemistry, metabolism and evolutionary history. This in turn profoundly influences their role in Earth's biogeochemical cycles."

Biologists at UCL have looked at the correlated firing of a complete population of macaque parasol retinal ganglion cells. They found that by studying a population of cells, instead of individual neurons, "neural encoding at the population level is less noisy than one would expect from the variability of individual neurons," they write in the abstract, and that they can extract more sensory data from looking at a group of neurons.

Beverley Glover reviews Michael Boulter's Darwin's Garden: Down House and The Origin of Species, which looks at how a place can affect a scientist's thinking and discovery process. The book, in part, covers Darwin's 1842 purchase of the Down House, 23 kilometers from the center of London, where he lived until his death and wrote most of his significant works.

 

The Scan

Billions for Antivirals

The US is putting $3.2 billion toward a program to develop antivirals to treat COVID-19 in its early stages, the Wall Street Journal reports.

NFT of the Web

Tim Berners-Lee, who developed the World Wide Web, is auctioning its original source code as a non-fungible token, Reuters reports.

23andMe on the Nasdaq

23andMe's shares rose more than 20 percent following its merger with a special purpose acquisition company, as GenomeWeb has reported.

Science Papers Present GWAS of Brain Structure, System for Controlled Gene Transfer

In Science this week: genome-wide association study ties variants to white matter stricture in the brain, and more.