By Danny Halpin via SWNS
The genome of the destructive desert locust is three times larger than that of a human, scientists have revealed.
It is hoped the sequencing of the huge genome will lead to a deeper understanding of the insects and more effective ways of controlling their rampages.
US scientists have for the first time sequenced and built the genome of the most destructive migratory insect in the world which has plagued farmers since the time of the Pharaohs.
The plagues are cyclic and have been recorded as far back as ancient Egypt in 3200 BC.
More recently, there have been swarms in 1967-69, 1986-89 and 2020-22. They cause devastation in East Africa, the Middle East and southwest Asia, threatening the food supply to many countries.
The damage can be huge. A small swarm can eat as much food in a day as would feed 35,000 people.
Biblical-size swarms the size of New York City can eat in one day enough food for 30 million people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
At present, swarms are mostly controlled by finding and spraying them with pesticides.
The scientists hope their genomic work will reduce dependence on fighting the bugs with chemical warfare.
Dr. Scott Geib, an entomologist from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Hawaii, said: “Having a high-quality genome is a big step toward finding targeted controls.
“It will also give us valuable information about relatives of the desert locust that are major pests in the Americas such as the Mormon cricket, another swarming species that can impact US food security.”
Working with scientists from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Dr. Geib and his team were able to map the genetic make-up of the desert locust, an enormous job as it is three times larger than the human genome and has just under nine billion base pairs which are the basic building blocks of the DNA structure.
The desert locust’s chromosomes are larger than the entire genetic structure of the fruit fly, the first insect to have its genome built by scientists.
Dr. Geib said: “With the desert locust, we were dealing with a much larger genome in many fewer pieces – about 8.8 Gb in just 12 chromosomes.
“Next to the fruit fly, it’s like an 18-wheeler next to a compact car. It was like sequencing a typical insect genome many, many times over.
“But with today’s advances in DNA sequencing technologies, we are now able to generate extremely accurate genomes of insects that previously would have been unapproachable.”
He added: “We were concerned that, faced with this huge and very likely complex desert locust genome, it was going to be an extremely long and difficult job.
“However, we were able to go from sample collection to a final assembled genome in under five months.
“The desert locust is one of the largest insect genomes ever completed and it was all done from a single locust.”
That one locust came from chemical ecologist Baldwyn Torto with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, Kenya.
He and his team tracked down swarms of locusts and collected samples across Kenya until he had two parents from which he was able to breed a pedigree offspring.
ARS has made the genome available to the international research community through the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
This work is part of the Ag100Pest Initiative, an ARS program to develop high-quality genomes for the top 100 arthropod pests in agriculture as a foundation for basic and applied research.
USDA Foreign Agricultural Service coordinated this research opportunity and provided funding from the US Agency for International Development Africa Bureau through an interagency agreement.
Stories and infographics by ‘Talker Research’ are available to download & ready to use. Stories and videos by ‘Talker News’ are managed by SWNS. To license content for editorial or commercial use and to see the full scope of SWNS content, please email email@example.com or submit an inquiry via our contact form.
What do people lie about on their online dating profiles?
This story version has been formatted as an on-air script for broadcast outlets. See the original research story here. HALF (47%)...
Should the holiday season last longer?
Is there enough time in the holiday season to do everything we want to do?
Meet the man with a knack for kettlebell juggling
"Getting fit and discovering I have a real talent for kettlebell juggling has had such a positive impact on my...
Tortoise celebrates his 190th birthday
Jonathan has lived through two World Wars, watched more than 35 governors of the island come and go and has...
Why this flower with ability to change color may help feed the world
By Mark Waghorn via SWNS A spectacular flower with a unique color-changing ability may hold the key to feeding the...
- Quizzes1 day ago
Take a swipe at our online dating quiz
- Outer Space5 days ago
Wall-E-like robot to provide power on Moon by 2025
- Art5 days ago
Sir Ringo Starr selling life-size statues of his famous Peace and Love hand gesture
- Holidays1 day ago
Should the holiday season last longer?
- Health4 days ago
Top reasons American seniors avoid going to the doctor
- Holidays2 days ago
Stunning photos show 100,000 colorful poinsettias ready for Christmas
- Outer Space4 days ago
Photos capture the Moon photobombing the Sun
- Cars3 days ago
Aston Martin designed home lets owners park cars near dining table