The main poster is cool looking – those blacklight-purple urchins popping out from an inky screen. Click on topics listed at right, and the Science folks will walk you through sea urchin research, discipline by discipline. The language is technical – they weren’t expecting readers from People, I guess – but the pace is slow and metered. Cool video clips really help – When was the last time you watched a sperm cell wriggle through the cell membrane of a massive egg, then smack into the nucleus? I kept thinking of the cartoon chicken hawk doggedly pursuing Foghorn Leghorn.
David McClay, of Duke University, recaps the sea urchin’s importance in science (there’s a timeline, too, in case he misses anything). He wades right in, saying, “The sea urchin is in a very unique place in phylogeny, in that it’s right past the branch point of the deuterostomes.” Later, we learn that that means it’s actually more closely related to us than fruit flies are. Pretty cool.
This is a great piece of science communication. It’s also interesting to think that science is such a vast endeavor that even career scientists need this kind of primer, even for a fundamentally important branch of research. Where does that leave the rest of the country? Makes me want to get in on writing a popular-science version of this thing.