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New Borg Collective

Researchers have identified nearly two dozen extrachromosomal elements they have dubbed Borgs, after the Star Trek aliens, Science reports.

It adds that the University of California, Berkeley's Jill Banfield spotted the enigmatic DNA elements when analyzing mud samples for signs of viruses that infect archaea. Instead, she and her colleagues uncovered long, linear pieces of DNA that appeared to harbor a particular pattern. They further found additional examples of these extrachromosomal elements within sediment samples from Colorado and other spots in California. As they report in a preprint posted to BioRxiv, Banfield and her colleagues found that these Borg elements have accumulated genes from Methanoperedens, the methane-oxidizing archaeon they appear to be associated with, and may augment its methane oxidation.

But what exactly the Borg are — the name was proposed by Banfield's son, according to Science — is unclear. "It is fascinating to ponder their possible evolutionary origins. Are they giant linear viruses or plasmids unlike anything previously reported? Alternatively, are they auxiliary chromosomes? Perhaps they were once a sibling Methanoperedens lineage that underwent gene loss and established a symbiotic association within Methanoperedens?" Banfield and her colleagues write in their preprint.

The Scan

Interfering With Invasive Mussels

The Chicago Tribune reports that researchers are studying whether RNA interference- or CRISPR-based approaches can combat invasive freshwater mussels.

Participation Analysis

A new study finds that women tend to participate less at scientific meetings but that some changes can lead to increased involvement, the Guardian reports.

Right Whales' Decline

A research study plans to use genetic analysis to gain insight into population decline among North American right whales, according to CBC.

Science Papers Tie Rare Mutations to Short Stature, Immunodeficiency; Present Single-Cell Transcriptomics Map

In Science this week: pair of mutations in one gene uncovered in brothers with short stature and immunodeficiency, and more.