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This Week in Science: Feb 6, 2009

This week's Science has a special section celebrating Charles Darwin's 200th birthday. The five review papers included there run the gamut. One from a University of Bristol scientist discusses the roles of biotic and abiotic factors in speciation; another wonders if genetic evolution can be predicted. Sergey Gavrilets and Jonathan Losos look at adaptive radiation while Dolph Schluter weighs the evidence for ecological and mutation-order speciation. Finally, a group of researchers from London and Cambridge, Mass. try to make sense of the diversity of bacteria.

In news, Science rounds up the current standing of science in the US stimulus bill, saying even though that package is still under debate, "the eventual figures for science promise to be huge." The version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives includes $20 billion for research and $6 billion for repairs and renovations at colleges and universities.

Shanwu Tang and Daven Presgraves discuss the evolution of the nuclear pore complex in Drosophila species. They show that the nucleoporin 160kDa gene in Drosophila simulans is incompatible with a factor, or factors, on the D. melanogaster X chromosome and leads to the death of hybrids. The researchers also found that the Nup160 protein interacts with another protein, Nup96, which is also encoded by hybrid lethal gene as part of a sub-complex. They think that Nup160 and Nup96 of D. simulans are incompatible with the same D. melanogaster factor, which is most likely Nup53 which interacts with that subunit. "We've now found that a functionally related group of genes is responsible [for hybrid lethality], with different versions of the genes having evolved in the two species," Presgraves said, according to Medical News Today.

North American gray wolves get their dark coat color from domesticated dogs, says a report in Science Express. In many natural populations of birds, fish, and some mammals, pigmentation diversity is due to mutations in the melanocortin 1 receptor, but in the gray wolf, as well as in the coyote and the Italian gray wolf, it is due to a mutation to a different part of that pathway, at the K locus. The researchers show that the mutation in wolves comes from hybridization with domestic dogs, in which the mutation is thought to have arisen about 46,000 years ago.

The Scan

Rise of BA.5

The New York Times reports that the Omicron subvariant BA.5 has become the dominant version of SARS-CoV-2 in the US.

UK Health Secretary Resigns

Sajid Javid, the UK health secretary, resigned along with Chancellor Rishi Sunak, saying they cannot work with Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government, CNN reports.

Clones From Freeze-Dried Cells

A team in Japan has cloned mice from freeze-dried skin cells, according to the Guardian.

Genome Research Papers on Craniosynostosis, Macaque Retrotransposition, More

In Genome Research this week: structural variants in craniosynostosis, LINE-1 activity in rhesus macaque brain, and more.