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Ocean Creature Roundup

March 26, 2010

Small marine creatures called sea squirts are helping medical researchers test treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

Transcript

Battling Alzheimer’s wth sea squirts. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Testing new drugs to fight Alzheimers is difficult, because most lab animals aren’t prone to the disease. And in those that are, it develops very slowly. Scientists at San Diego State College have found a way to induce Alzheimer’s symptoms in sea squirts– small marine creatures that look like little tubes glued to rocks. Despite their appearance, sea squirt’s are humans’ closest invertebrate relative, sharing 80% of our genetic material. So trying out new drugs on the marine organisms could lead to new treatments for humans.

In other marine creature news, researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts have found that the long-armed octopus has a unique survival skill: it impersonates flounders. The octopus flattens itself against the sea bottom and takes on the shape and coloration of a flounder to fool its predators. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.