Ancient trans-Atlantic swarm brought locusts to the New World
DNA links genetic lineage of western hemisphere insects to African desert locust
Somewhere between three and five million years ago, a massive swarm of locusts took off from the west coast of Africa and made an unlikely voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to colonize the New World, says an international team of researchers.
Using genetic evidence from more than 20 species of locusts, scientists from the Universities of Toronto, Arizona, Maryland, Cornell University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have answered a long-standing conundrum: why are the closest relatives of the African desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) found in the New World, rather than Africa? The desert locust is one of the worlds most economically important insects, and is capable of forming massive swarms that devastate crops.
DNA shows that ancestors of the desert locust flew across the Atlantic and gave rise to a diverse group of New World species. "If we were standing on the coast of Africa, we might have these swarms of locusts heading off across the Atlantic," says Nathan Lovejoy, an assistant professor of in the Department of Life Sciences at the University of Toronto at Scarborough, who led the research along with Sean Mullen, now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland.
How the locusts made the trans-Atlantic flight is unclear, since the insects dont have enough fat to power a trip lasting several days. "One unlikely hypothesis is that while the locusts were flying across, as their brethren died and landed in the ocean, they formed huge floating mats of dead locusts," says Lovejoy. "The other locusts would land on these mats, rest and feed on the dead bodies, then take off and keep flying." Another possibility is that among the millions of swarming locusts were a few exceptional insects that somehow managed to survive the flight. Lovejoy adds that high-altitude winds would have been essential for the swarms flight. There is a modern-day example of this phenomenon -- in October 1998, a swarm of desert locusts crossed the Atlantic, travelling from Africa to the Caribbean.
Using muscle samples taken from the powerful hind legs of locusts, Lovejoy and his colleagues used mitochondrial DNA sequences to reconstruct the evolutionary history of the Schistocerca locusts. The team found that the desert locust lineage gave rise to the more than 50 Schistocerca species found in the western hemisphere.
Nicolle Wahl | EurekAlert!
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...