Insect Genomics

Acquiring the genes to digest wood

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Science  02 Dec 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6316, pp. 1115
DOI: 10.1126/science.354.6316.1115-a

Asian longhorned beetle larvae digest wood by using acquired genes.

PHOTO: SCOTT CAMAZINE / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

The larvae of the invasive Asian longhorned beetle burrow into and kill trees. On sequencing the genome, McKenna et al. found that gene transfers from fungi and bacteria, followed by functional evolution and gene family expansions, appear to have conferred the ability to the beetles to find plants, digest cellulose, and nullify harmful compounds made by the plants. Interestingly, other wood-feeding beetles appear to have undergone a similar evolutionary trajectory, one that is distinct from that of wood-feeding insects such as termites.

Genome Biol. 17, 227 (2016).

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