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Diamondback moth uses plant defense substances as oviposition cues

Date:September 10, 2020Source:Max Planck Institute for Chemical EcologySummary:Researchers showed that isothiocyanates produced by cruciferous plants to fend off pests serve as oviposition cues. The scientists identified two olfactory receptors whose sole function is to detect these defense substances and to guide female moths to the ideal sites to lay their eggs. They uncovered the molecular mechanism that explains why some insects that specialize in feeding on certain host plants are attracted by substances that are supposed to keep pests away.Share:    FULL STORY


A research team from the Nanjing Agricultural University in Nanjing, China, and the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, showed that isothiocyanates produced by cruciferous plants to fend off pests serve as oviposition cues. The plant defense substances serve as odor signals for females of the diamondback moth to lay their eggs on these plants. The scientists identified two olfactory receptors whose sole function is to detect these defense substances and to guide the moths to the ideal oviposition sites. They uncovered the molecular mechanism that explains why some insects that specialize in feeding on certain host plants are attracted by substances that are supposed to keep pests away.

From repellent to attractant

Cruciferous plants, such as cabbage, rape (canola), mustard and horseradish, produce glucosinolates. Upon mechanical damage of the plant tissues, e.g. caused by a chewing insect, glucosinolates are hydrolyzed by the endogenous plant enzyme myrosinase. This leads to the formation of a variety of toxic breakdown products, mainly isothiocyanates, to defend themselves against voracious insects. This defense mechanism is very effective against most herbivores. The diamondback moth Plutella xylostella, however, has evolved mechanisms of its own to outwit this defense: It is able to feed successfully on plants of the cabbage family and make use of the plants for its own reproductive purposes.

“We wanted to know whether the moths use isothiocyanates as odor cues to locate their host plants. In fact, behavioral experiments showed that three isothiocyanates are key signals for female moths to locate and lay eggs on cruciferous plants,” says study leader Shuang-Lin Dong from Nanjing Agricultural University.

Two olfactory receptors specialized on isothiocyanates control egg-laying

The main scientific question was, what are the molecular mechanisms on which female Plutella xylostella moths base their choice of the oviposition site? The researchers therefore analyzed, which olfactory receptors were highly expressed in female moths, and studied the function of these receptors in the frog oocytes. “With this method, we were able to investigate which odors an individual receptor was responding to. We showed that two receptors, OR35 and OR49, responded to the three isothiocyanates that we had previously identified as being crucial for oviposition,” says Markus Knaden from the Max Planck Institute in Jena. These two receptors did not respond to any other plant-related odors or to the sex pheromones of the moths. Presumably, OR35 and OR49 evolved to detect precisely those egg-laying signals. “We were surprised that even two receptors are specifically tuned to the isothiocyanates. The two receptors, however, detect the isothiocyanates with different sensitivities. We hypothesize that the more sensitive receptor could make sure that female moths locate plants from a distance, while the other may help to provide a more accurate detection of the isothiocyanate concentration. This will give the female moths more information about the substrate on which they will lay their eggs,” says Shuang-Lin Dong.

Validation of gene function using CRISPR-Cas9 gene knockout techniques

The researchers used the CRISPR-Cas9 genetic scissors to knock out the genes encoding the two receptors in moths. This method is used to test the function of a specific gene. For egg-laying assays, they used plants of the thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana, a model plant that belongs to the cruciferous plant family. Some of these plants were unmodified and produced isothiocyanates that were attractive to the moths, whereas the others were mutants that were unable to produce isothiocyanates. When one of the two receptors was inactivated, the moths laid considerably fewer eggs on the isothiocyanates-emitting plants. When both receptors were knocked out, the moths were unable to discriminate between unmodified Arabidopsis plants and the mutant plants.

Cheaters in plant-insect interactions

In the course of evolution, plants have developed various strategies to defend themselves against herbivores. A crucial part of plant-insect interaction is chemical communication. “In most cases, it is useful for a plant to communicate to potential herbivores that its defense system is already activated. However, there will be always someone who misuses the communication for its own benefit, like in our case the diamondback moth, which uses a plant defense signal as an attractant and lays eggs and spreads on this plant,” says Markus Knaden. Finding out how these “cheaters” outwit plant defenses and even use these defenses for their own purposes could help improve the control of global crop pests (such as the diamondback moth): “Our results offer various approaches to control this pest: On the one hand, we could use the identified isothiocyanates or other attractive substances as attractants to trap these pests. On the other hand, we could try to develop chemical agents to interrupt or block the perception of the isothiocyanates and thus interfere with the females’ location of their host plants,” summarizes Shuang-Lin Dong.

Further investigations are planned to study whether other insects that attack cruciferous plants also use special receptors to detect isothiocyanates and to locate the plants for oviposition. The results may provide information on the extent to which the perception of these odors by specialized receptors is also conserved in other species.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Max Planck Institute for Chemical EcologyNote: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Xiao-Long Liu, Jin Zhang, Qi Yan, Chun-Li Miao, Wei-Kang Han, Wen Hou, Ke Yang, Bill S. Hansson, Ying-Chuan Peng, Jin-Meng Guo, Hao Xu, Chen-Zhu Wang, Shuang-Lin Dong, Markus Knaden. The Molecular Basis of Host Selection in a Crucifer-Specialized MothCurrent Biology, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.08.047

Cite This Page:

Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology. “Diamondback moth uses plant defense substances as oviposition cues.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 September 2020. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/09/200910120123.htm>.

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States urging residents to be on the lookout for destructive invasive species

MEREDITH DELISOABC NewsAugust 16, 2020

Officials across multiple states are urging people to be on the lookout for an invasive species that can have a devastating impact on agriculture.

In recent weeks, officials in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey have been sounding the alarm about the spotted lanternfly, which currently is in its prime feeding season and can wreak havoc on crops.

For the first time, live spotted lanternflies were also found on Staten Island, New York, state authorities announced Friday.

PHOTO: A spotted lanternfly is seen on a tree in this stock photo. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A spotted lanternfly is seen on a tree in this stock photo. (STOCK PHOTO/Getty Images)

The first live find is “concerning,” Basil Seggos, the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) commissioner, said in a statement, adding that the goal is to “prevent it from further entering New York state and limiting any serious threats to our natural resources.”https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fnyagandmarkets%2Fposts%2F2949919981804190&show_text=true&width=552&height=543&appId

The spotted lanternfly feeds on more than 70 plant species, which can make the plants vulnerable to disease and attacks from other insects. A Penn State study released earlier this year found that the invasive species cost the Pennsylvania economy about $50 million, including $29 million in direct costs on growers and forest landowners.

MORE: ‘Gross’: Lanternflies causing big bug problem for some

People can help limit the spotted lanternfly’s spread by reporting sightings to their state agriculture department or by simply squashing the bug.

Video: ‘Murder hornets’ resurface in Pacific Northwest

   The inch-long insect is distinguished by the reddish, polka-dotted wings of adult spotted lanternflies, which mature in late July and August. People should also be on the lookout for the insect’s eggs, which adults begin laying in September. Egg masses are about 1 inch long and resemble mud. To kill them, officials recommend using alcohol, bleach or hand sanitizer, or double bagging them and throwing them away.

People can also help prevent the spread of the spotted lanternfly by not inadvertently transporting the insect or its eggs. Native to Asia, the insect is notorious for hitchhiking and primarily spread through human activity.

Dozens of counties across multiple states are currently under a form of quarantine due to the insect, including 26 in Pennsylvaniaeight in New Jerseytwo in Maryland and one in Delaware. Typically that means anyone who travels in a quarantined county is asked to inspect their vehicle, luggage, gear, outdoor items and clothing for the spotted lanternfly or its eggs before leaving. It may also mean businesses are required to have a permit to move certain items within or from quarantine zones.

MORE: Study: Spotted lanternfly costing Pennsylvania $50M annually

“Its ability to travel easily on any mode of transportation has allowed it to spread,” New Jersey Department of Agriculture Plant Industry Division Director Joe Zoltowski said last week in an update on the state’s actions to eradicate the species. “We are asking residents to do their part by eliminating this bug whenever possible.”https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?dnt=true&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1293611347981340675&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.yahoo.com%2Fgma%2Fstates-urging-residents-lookout-destructive-021654709.html&siteScreenName=GMA&theme=light&widgetsVersion=223fc1c4%3A1596143124634&width=550px

The insect prefers the tree-of-heaven, another invasive species. Since 2018, more than 200,000 trees-of-heaven have been treated on almost 19,000 acres in New Jersey, state officials said last week. Infestations are primarily along the state’s border with Pennsylvania, which had the first reported sighting of the spotted lanternfly in the U.S. Since first detected in Berks County in 2014, the insect has been found in more than a third of the state’s counties.Story continues

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Bug wars: Feds introduce Asian wasps to battle emerald ash borer outbreak in Lincoln area

Ash borer wasps

The Tetrastichus planipennisi wasp lays eggs in the larvae of the emerald ash borer.

  • Peter Salter

A piece of ash branch, infested with the emerald ash borer and injected with the eggs of the Tetrastichus planipennisi wasp, was attached to an ash tree at Platte River State Park last summer.

City tree crews discovered the first signs of emerald ash borer infestation in a tree near 37th and F streets.

One of the newest members of Lincoln’s insect family is a little wasp with a big name and no desire for human flesh.

But it can’t live without the emerald ash borer.

The Tetrastichus planipennisi is an underhanded killer, penetrating the bark of an infected ash tree with its ovipositor — the stinger on other species — to lay eggs in the larvae of the emerald ash borer.

“Then the eggs hatch,” said Dave Olson, a forest health specialist with the Nebraska Forest Service. “And they eat the ash borer from the inside-out.”

Its cousin, Oobius agrili, likes its borers even younger: It injects its own egg inside an ash borer egg, eventually hatching, growing and killing its host.

In both cases, the parasitic wasps mature — larvae, pupae, adulthood — then fly away, looking for more victims, continuing the cycle.

 Ash borer update: Some trees to get reprieve; replanting plans not taking root everywhere

And the brutality of this bug-eat-bug world is now being waged in Lincoln and nearby state parks, introduced to the area by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to slow the spread of the emerald ash borer.

The Asian beetle, about the size of a cooked grain of rice, was first confirmed in North America in the early 2000s and has been eating its way west across the U.S. since, piling up massive damage.ADVERTISING

The insect had already killed tens of millions of ash trees — with an estimated value of $11 million — by the time it reached Nebraska, first confirmed in a Douglas County tree in 2016. It landed in Lancaster County in 2018, caught in a trap near Pioneers Park, and was discovered infesting trees in Lincoln last spring.

It’s a lethal little bug, and Lincoln’s estimated 65,000 public and private ash trees are vulnerable. The city has already started removing and replacing most of its 14,000 trees from parks, golf courses and along streets, and will attempt to prolong the lives of some with chemical treatments.

 Emerald ash borer found in Nebraska’s Saunders County

The stingless wasps were the federal government’s idea. The USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine program approached the state last year, and the Forest Service identified a handful of spots that could benefit from biocontrol: Pioneers Park, Mahoney and Platte River state parks and Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area.

A federal rearing lab in Michigan supplied nearly 20,000 wasps from three species and in various stages — Oobius agrili pupae, Tetrastichus planipennisi eggs, larvae and pupae, and Spathius galinae wasps.

In some cases, the lab delivers a Trojan tree limb — a branch cutting already infested with ash borer and injected with wasp larvae. Once in the field, the branch is attached to a tree that shows signs of the ash borer, and the adult wasps emerge from the cutting and start hunting in the host tree.

It’s too soon to see results, Shayne Galford, the USDA’s state plant health director for Nebraska and Kansas, said in an email. But officials will return to the release sites to introduce more wasps this year, and check for established populations in 2021. They could also add more sites, he said.

 ‘Each table is a small victory’ — How volunteers and salvage lumber are helping flood victims

The new weapon in the war on emerald ash borers won’t stop their spread, said Olson, with the state forest service. But it could crimp it.

“It’s not going to be a silver bullet. The real goal is to get these predators set up so in a few years the emerald ash borer has additional pressure on it.”

 In war against ash borer, a side skirmish erupts in east Lincoln

Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter View Comments84215

How to get ready for the emerald ash borer in the Lincoln area

Local

How to get ready for the emerald ash borer in the Lincoln area

  • Updated Feb 18, 2020

They found the first bug in August, in a treetop trap they set northwest of Pioneers Park.

Platte River floodwaters claim Rod and Gun Club cabin near Fremont
Annual Polar Plunge not so polar this time around

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Penny

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Temperate insects as vulnerable to climate change as tropical species

Date: June 8, 2020 Source: Uppsala University Summary: In previous research, it has been assumed that insects in temperate regions would cope well with or even benefit from a warmer climate. Not so, according to researchers. The earlier models failed to take into account the fact that insects in temperate habitats are inactive for much of the year. Share: FULL STORY


In previous research, it has been assumed that insects in temperate regions would cope well with or even benefit from a warmer climate. Not so, according to researchers from the Universities of Uppsala and Lund in Sweden and Oviedo, Spain, in a new study. The earlier models failed to take into account the fact that insects in temperate habitats are inactive for much of the year.

The research group’s study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, presents new knowledge about the potential effects of global warming on insect populations. The results show that insects may be more threatened by climate change than previous estimates have indicated.

“Insects in temperate zones might be as threatened by climate change as those in the tropics,” says Uppsala University professor Frank Johansson.

The researchers found new, disturbing patterns in a modified analysis of a previously used dataset on insects’ critical temperature limits and their survival. Their conclusion is that temperate insects might be just as sensitive to climate change as tropical ones. The previous studies showed that tropical insects are severely threatened by climate change since they already live very close to their optimal temperature and “critical thermal maximum.” However, the scientists responsible for those previous studies also assumed that temperate insects live far below their own optimal and maximum temperatures, and might therefore benefit from climate change.

The problem is that the earlier studies used mean annual temperatures for all their estimates. In so doing, they failed to consider that the vast majority of insects in temperate latitudes remain inactive in cold periods — that is, for much of the year.

When more biological details about the various insect species, and only the months in which the species are active, are entered in the models, the new estimates show that in temperate insects’ habitats, too, the temperatures are close to the insects’ optimal and critical maximum. This is because the average temperature for the months when the insects are active clearly exceeds the mean year-round temperature. Temperate insects are thus as vulnerable as tropical species to temperature increases

When the temperature is close to insects’ optimal temperature or critical upper limit, there is a great risk of their numbers declining. The decreases in insect populations would also affect humans, since many insect species provide ecosystem services, such as pollination of fruit, vegetables and other plants we eat.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Uppsala University. Original written by Linda Koffmar. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Frank Johansson, Germán Orizaola, Viktor Nilsson-Örtman. Temperate insects with narrow seasonal activity periods can be as vulnerable to climate change as tropical insect  species. Scientific Reports, 2020; 10 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-65608-7

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Below are relevant articles that may interest you. ScienceDaily shares links with scholarly publications in the TrendMD network and earns revenue from third-party advertisers, where indicated.

  1. Effects of climate change and grazing pressure on shrub communities of West Asian rangelands Mounir Louhaichi et al., International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2019
  2. Climate change and food security in EAC region: a panel data analysis Walaa Mahrous, Review of Economics and Political Science, 2019
  3. Climate change implications for water resource management in Caribbean tourism Kwame Emmanuel et al., Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, 2009
  4. The Earth Only Endures – On Reconnecting with Nature and Our Place in It International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2009
  1. Effects of a changing climate on livelihoods of forest dependent communities Faith Nyangute Saalu et al., International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2020
  2. Human competences that facilitate adaptation to climate change: a research in progress Jackie Kerry et al., International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2012
  3. Biodiversity and climate change in Kuwait Samira Omar Asem et al., International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2010
  4. Climate change in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and implications for water resources project planning and management Saleh A. Wasimi, International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 2010

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Science

Watch how battles with bats give moths their flashy tails

Bats and their prey are in a constant arms race. Whereas the winged mammals home in on insects with frighteningly accurate sonar, some of their prey—such as the tiger moth—fight back with sonar clicks and even jamming signals. Now, in a series of bat-moth skirmishes (above), scientists have shown how other moths create an “acoustic illusion,” with long wing-tails that fool bats into striking the wrong place. The finding helps explain why some moths have such showy tails, and it may also provide inspiration for drones of the future.

Moth tails vary from species to species: Some have big lobes at the bottom of the hindwing instead of a distinctive tail; others have just a short protrusion. Still others have long tails that are thin strands with twisted cuplike ends. In 2015, sensory ecologist Jesse Barber of Boise State University in Idaho and colleagues discovered that some silk moths use their tails to confuse bat predators. Now, graduate student Juliette Rubin has shown just what makes the tails such effective deterrents.

Working with three species of silk moths—luna, African moon, and polyphemus—Rubin shortened or cut off some of their hindwings and glued longer or differently shaped tails to others. She then tied the moths to a string hanging from the top of a large cage and released a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) inside. She used high-speed cameras and microphones to record the ensuing fight.

Moths with no tails (such as polyphemus) were easy quarry for the bats, escaping only about 27% of the time, Rubin, Barber, and colleagues report today in Science Advances. But when Rubin enlarged the polyphemus hindwing lobe, twice as many escaped the bat’s sonar, or echolocation system.

Bats going after long-tailed African moon moths got a mouthful of tail 75% of the time as the moths flitted away. Shorten the tail, and the African moon moths escaped only 45% of the time. With no tail at all, that percentage dropped to 34%. When Rubin’s colleagues Chris Hamilton and Akito Kawahara at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville built a family tree of silk moths and their relatives, they realized that long tails had evolved independently several times. That’s further evidence that they are an important life-saving feature for these moths.

“The authors have demonstrated a powerful approach for understanding the diversity of moth shapes,” says Aaron Corcoran, an animal ecologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who was not involved with the work. “There appear to be many different ways to trick a bat’s echolocation system.” The study also revealed how hard it was for bats to work around this deception, he adds. “The fact that the bats in the study never learned how to catch these moths, despite ample time to do so, shows how hard-wired this blind spot is in the bat’s perception.”

The findings could benefit other fields such as robotics, says Martin How, a sensory ecologist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. Because the study examined the bat-moth dogfights at such a fine scale, the results could help engineers design the “bio-inspired technologies of the future,” he says, including deftly flying drones.

*Correction, 5 July, 1:45 p.m.: This article has been updated to reflect that although Juliette Rubin was the lead author of the paper, some of the work was done by other researchers.

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A “superb” southwestern Missouri cicada, Neotibicen superbus

Back in the summer of 2015, I made an early August trip to the White River Hills region of extreme southwestern Missouri. I was actually looking for one of Missouri’s more uncommon cerambycid beetles – Prionus pocularis, associated with shortleaf pine in the mixed hardwood/pine forests across the southern part of the state. I did not encounter the beetle in either my prionic acid-baited pitfall traps or at the ultraviolet lights I had set up the evening before, but while I was in the area I thought I would visit one of my favorite places in the region – Drury-Mincy Conservation Area in Taney Co. Sitting right on the border with Arkansas, the rolling hills of this area feature high-quality dolomite glades and post oak savannas. I’ve had some excellent collecting here in the past and hoped I would find something of interest this time as well. I didn’t arrive until after midnight, and since there are no hotels in the area I just slept in the car.

Neotibicen superbus

The next morning temperatures began to rise quickly, and with it so did the cacophony of cicadas getting into high gear with their droning buzz calls. As I passed underneath one particular tree I noticed the song was coming from a branch very near my head. I like cicadas, but had it been the song of a “normal” cicada like Neotibicen lyricen (lyric cicada) or N. pruinosus (scissor grinder cicada) I would have paid it no mind. It was, instead, unfamiliar and distinctive, and when I searched the branches above me I recognized the beautiful insect responsible for the call as Neotibicen superbus (superb cicada), a southwest Missouri specialty—sumptuous lime-green above and bright white pruinose beneath. I had not seen this spectacular species since the mid 1980s (most of my visits to the area have been in the spring or the fall rather than high summer), and I managed to catch it and take a quick iPhone photograph for documentation. A species this beautiful, however, deserves ‘real’ photos, so I spent the next couple of hours attempting to photograph an individual in situ with the big camera. Of course, this is much, much easier said than done, especially with this species—their bulging eyes give them exceptional vision, and they are very skittish and quick to take flight. Most of the individuals that I located were too high up in the canopy to allow a shot, and each individual that was low enough for me to approach ended up fluttering off with a screech before I could even compose a shot, much less press the shutter. Persistence paid, however, and I eventually managed to approach and photograph an unusually calm female resting – quite conveniently – at chest height on the trunk of a persimmon tree.

Sanborn-Phillips_2013_Fig-16

According to Sanborn & Phillips (2013, Figure 16 – reproduced above), Neotibicen superbus, is found in trees within grassland environments primarily in eastern Texas and Oklahoma, although records of it exist from each of the surrounding states – especially southern Missouri and northern Arkansas (Figure 16 below, Sanborn & Phillips 2013). Later the same day I would see the species abundantly again in another of the region’s dolomite glades – this one in Roaring River State Park further west in Barry Co., suggesting that dolomite glades are the preferred habitat in this part of its range. Interestingly, I think the Missouri records at least must be relatively recent, as Froeschner (1952) did not include the species in his synopsis of Missouri cicadas. This was all the information I had back in the 1980s when I first encountered the species in southwestern Missouri, its apparent unrecorded status in the state making it an even more exciting find at the time.

Neotibicen superbus

REFERENCES:

Froeschner, R. C.  1952. A synopsis of the Cicadidae of Missouri. Journal of the New York Entomological Society 60:1–14 [pdf].

Sanborn, A. F. & P. K. Phillips. 2013. Biogeography of the cicadas (Hemiptera: Cicadidae) of North America, north of Mexico. Diversity 5(2):166–239 [abstractpdf].

© Ted C. MacRae 2018

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From PestNet

Updated fruit fly identification handbook

Welcome resource for alert Australians

As there were several fruit fly outbreaks declared across the country in 2018, the release of an updated Australian Handbook for the Identification of Fruit Flies will be welcomed by the agricultural sector. The publication will make sorting and identifying the thousands of tephritid ‘true’ fruit flies affecting a wide variety of crops grown in Australia much easier.
The handbook is accompanied by additional online information, developed via the companion website Fruit Fly Identification Australia (fruitflyidentification.org.au) and is a handy reference for all primary producers, not just those producing commercial quantities of fruit.

Dr Mark Schutze, from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries: “We’ve updated all the fruit fly images using fresh material and produced new, tailor made, molecular diagnostic tools that have emerged from our investment in next generation genomic research.”

According to farmingahead.com.au, over 60 target species of fruit flies are included in the handbook and website, shown both as individual flies and in groups of flies that look similar to each other. Importantly, the range of variation within species is also captured.
Find the Australian Handbook for the Identification of Fruit Flies

Publication date: 6/20/2018

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T. S. Park et al./Nature Communications, 10.1038

This ancestor of today’s insects, spiders, and crustaceans had a simple brain, but complex eyes

Although it’s hard to believe that delicate nervous tissues could persist for hundreds of millions of years, that’s exactly what happened to the brains and eyes of some 15 ancestors of modern-day spiders and lobsters, called Kerygmachela kierkegaardi (after the famous philosopher Søren Kierkegaard). Found along the coast of north Greenland, the 518-million-year-old fossils contained enough preserved brains and eyes to help researchers write a brand-new history of the arthropod nervous system.

Until now, many biologists had argued that ancient arthropods—which gave rise to today’s insects, spiders, and crustaceans—had a three-part brain and very simple eyes. Compound eyes, in which the “eye” is really a cluster of many smaller eyes, supposedly evolved later from a pair of legs that moved into the head and was modified to sense light.

But these new fossils, which range from a few centimeters to 30 centimeters long, had a tiny, unsegmented brain, akin to what’s seen in modern velvet worms, researchers report today in Nature Communications. Despite the simple brain, Kerygmachela’s eyes were probably complex, perhaps enough to form rudimentary images. The eyes, indicated by shiny spots in the fossil’s small head, appear to be duplicated versions of the small, simple eyes seen today in soft, primitive arthropods called water bears and velvet worms.

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This legless insect can jump 30 times its body length

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA—U.S. figure skater Nathan Chen may wow crowds with his endless quadruple jumps, but the Olympic hopeful can’t hold a candle to the legless gall midge larva (Asphondylia sp). The 3-millimeter-long larva—which startled scientists when it started hopping out of its lab dishes—plants its rear end on the ground, slides its head toward its nether regions, and latches its body into a loop, which it then flattens by shifting fluids inside its body. After enough pressure builds up, the midge releases the latch, straightens, and flies into the air at 1 meter per second for a jump as much as 30 times its body length. On a human scale, that distance would be 60 meters. (Consider: The current long jump record is less than 9 meters, with a running start.) Researchers discovered the feat with super–high-speed video cameras that shot 20,000 frames per second. The secret to the midge’s success is power amplification—the ability to build up force and then release it all at once, they report here today at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology. It’s like an archer pulling back a bowstring, temporarily storing the energy for shooting the arrow in the elastic string. No one knows yet why the midge larva jumps—until it matures into a fly, it never leaves its home, an abnormal growth on a type of goldenrod called silverrod. But documenting its Olympian performance could help scientists understand the movements of similar larval flies—and design better robots.

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Researchers find moth last seen 130 years ago

A moth masquerading as a shimmering blue bee has been rediscovered after 130 years. A damaged museum specimen collected in 1887 is the only previous evidence such a creature existed, The Guardian reports. Now, Polish researchers have spotted 12 of the oriental clearwing moths in Malaysia’s lowland rainforest collecting salts and minerals among the bees they look, act, and sound like. But how much longer this lost species lingers is tenuous, the researchers suggest in Tropical Conservation Science. The moth’s habitat is disappearing from rapid deforestation.

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