Handfishes are anglerfishes in the family Brachionichthyidae, a group comprised of 5 genera and 14 extant species.
They are small (up to 15 cm) bottom-dwelling marine fishes found in coastal waters of southern Australia and Tasmania. Their skin is covered with denticles (tooth-like scales), giving them the name warty anglers. This is the most species-rich of the few marine fish families that are endemic to Australia. Handfish are unusual, slow moving fishes that prefer to 'walk' rather than swim, using their modified pectoral fins to move about on the sea floor. These highly modified fins have the appearance of hands, hence their scientific name, from Latin bracchium meaning "arm" and Greek ichthys meaning "fish".
Only four specimens of the elusive four-inch (ten-centimeter) pink handfish have ever been found, and all of those were collected from areas around the city of Hobart (map), on the Australian island of Tasmania.
Though no one has spotted a living pink handfish since 1999, it's taken till now for scientists to formally identify it as a unique species.
they rebelled. they evolved. and they have a plan.
Scientists announced a bold step Thursday in the enduring quest to create artificial life. They've produced a living cell powered by manmade DNA.
Maryland genome-mapping pioneer J. Craig Venter said his team's project paves the way for the ultimate, much harder goal: designing organisms that work differently from the way nature intended for a wide range of uses.
"This is the first self-replicating species we've had on the planet whose parent is a computer," Venter told reporters.
And the report, being published Friday in the journal Science, is triggering excitement in this growing field of synthetic biology.
"It's been a long time coming, and it was worth the wait," said Dr. George Church, a Harvard Medical School genetics professor. "It's a milestone that has potential practical applications."
Scientists for years have moved single genes and even large chunks of DNA from one species to another. At his J. Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Md., and San Diego, Venter's team aimed to go further. A few years ago, the researchers transplanted an entire natural genome — the genetic code — of one bacterium into another and watched it take over, turning a goat germ into a cattle germ.
Next, the researchers built from scratch another, smaller bacterium's genome, using off-the-shelf laboratory-made DNA fragments.
Friday's report combines those two achievements to test a big question: Could synthetic DNA really take over and drive a living cell? Somehow, it did.
"This is transforming life totally from one species into another by changing the software," said Venter, using a computer analogy to explain the DNA's role.