Jacob Halaska, ©Index Stock Imagery

Researchers like mice. US government statistics reveal that the whiskered ones show up in 90% of all experiments. Mice come cheap, procreate often, and die fairly quickly. And although evolution separates mouse from human by an estimated 75 to 100 million years, biologically and genetically speaking, they share a lot; as much as 85% of the DNA in mice is the same in humans.

The research ground that mice have domineered for a century, however, is receding somewhat, as technologies and new discoveries make working with other organisms more efficacious. Rats replicate high blood pressure and atherosclerosis more readily than mice; in addition, their bigger brains are often easier to manipulate. Transparent zebrafish easily show circulating blood cells, making them useful for studying anemia. The physiology of rabbits more closely resembles humans than does that of mice or rats. And Caenorhabditis elegans has been manipulated...

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