Green sea urchins from the waters off the San Juan Islands in Washington state could help scientists to solve some human reproductive problems. (Photo credit: Christiane Biermann)
For many years scientists have believed they understood how closely related species that occupy the same regions of the ocean were kept from interbreeding. It turns out they were only seeing part of the picture.
New research from the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Laboratories shows that common assumptions about sea urchin reproduction don’t hold true for all species of the invertebrate creature. The work could lead to better understanding of fertilization among mammals, including the potential to solve some baffling human reproductive problems.
"The importance for people is understanding the process. People come to fertility clinics wondering why their eggs don’t fertilize," said Christiane Biermann, a research associate at Friday Harbor Labs in Washington state’s San Juan Islands and an adjunct biology faculty member at Portland State University in Oregon.
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