Matthew Combs, a Fordham University Louis Calder Center Biological Field Station grad student worked with colleagues from Fordham and the Providence College Department of Biology to sequence the genomes of brown rats in Manhattan, and made a surprising discovery: the geography of rats has a genetic correlation, so a geneticist can tell where a rat was born and raised by analyzing its DNA.
When Combs looked closer, distinct rat subpopulations emerged. Manhattan has two genetically distinguishable groups of rats: the uptown rats and the downtown rats, separated by the geographic barrier that is midtown. It’s not that midtown is rat-free—such a notion is inconceivable—but the commercial district lacks the household trash (aka food) and backyards (aka shelter) that rats like. Since rats tend to move only a few blocks in their lifetimes, the uptown rats and downtown rats don’t mix much.
When the researchers drilled down even deeper, they found that different neighborhoods have their own distinct rats. “If you gave us a rat, we could tell whether it came from the West Village or the East Village,” says Combs. “They’re actually unique little rat neighborhoods.” And the boundaries of rat neighborhoods can fit surprisingly well with human ones.
Spatial population genomics of the brown rat (Rattus norvegicus) in New York City. [Matthew Combs, Emily E. Puckett, Jonathan Richardson, Destiny Mims and Jason Munshi-South/Molecular Ecology]
New York City Has Genetically Distinct ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ Rats
[Sarah Zhang/The Atlantic]
(via Clive Thompson)
(Image: The Rats (of New York))
For €105, the delightful and enchanting silver Neuron Necklace is yours. Its just one of a number of clever items offered by science-inspired jewelry, which include brains, fetuses, spines and thyroid hormones. [Thanks, Heather!]
For more than a century there have been reports of a strange sea “monster” living in Loch Ness yet hard evidence is, er, lacking. Now, evolutionary biologist Neil Gemmell of the University of Otago is hoping that DNA testing could perhaps shed some light on what people claim is Nessie. For two weeks, Gemmell and […]
At this year’s Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, researcher Chen Chen presented a cool project that vastly improves the quality of images captured in low-light conditions. Via his presentation: Imaging in low light is challenging due to low photon count and low SNR. Short-exposure images suffer from noise, while long exposure can induce […]
The workday is long, and inevitably, you’re going to find yourself needing to take a break from the daily grind. With Mini Materials Miniature Cinder Blocks, you can take some time for yourself and decompress by turning your desk into a miniature construction site. They’re available today in the Boing Boing Store for $22.49. Handmade […]
Handheld radios might seem a bit archaic, but in an emergency situation, few things will keep you as reliably connected to the outside world. This Emergency Multi-Function Radio & Flashlight takes the utility of the tried-and-true radio and combines it with a powerful flashlight and self-sufficient energy system. It’s available in the Boing Boing Store for […]
Few programming languages boast the versatility and user-friendliness of Python, which is why it’s the first language of choice for many aspiring programmers. Regardless of your experience level, you can take the first step to becoming Python-savvy with the Python 3 Bootcamp Bundle, available in the Boing Boing Store for $35 this week. Featuring more than […]