How Spiderman got his Powers: A Look into Lateral Gene Transfer
“Actually, Spiderman’s powers have nothing to do with radioactivity,” Dr. Julie Dunning Hotopp clarified to the roomful of entomologists. “It was the transfer of spider DNA into his genome.” While the ability to climb walls or shoot webs out your wrists (or worse) is pure science fiction, the transfer of DNA between two different species does actually occur. Dr. Dunning Hotopp explained that this process, known as lateral gene transfer (LGT), is quite widespread and the advent of genome sequencing (determining the chemical code that make an organism unique) in the last decade has greatly expanded our knowledge on the prevalence and role of foreign DNA in animals
Demonstrating high LGT frequency in invertebrates, Dr. Dunning Hotopp’s team detected LGT from the bacterial endosymbionts Wolbachia in over 30% of sequenced arthropod genomes. Wolbachia is an intracellular bacterial parasite/mutualist with complex host interactions. While LGT from bacteria to animals often has no benefit to a host, in certain cases it can be advantageous. For example, the coffee berry borer, a major pest to coffee growers, and the brown marmorated stink bug both have a gene originally acquired from bacteria. The gene, HhMAN1, codes for the protein mannanse and enables insects to digest plant sugars.
Mitigation of N2O emissions using conservation tillage in vegetable fields transitioning to organic productions
Nationwide annual honey bee colony losses. Image: Bee Informed Partnership/University of Maryland/Loretta Kuo
Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Nathalie Steinhauer, Karen Rennich and their colleagues with the Bee Informed Partnership, whose latest annual survey results on honey bee colony losses are released today. Results of the survey suggest that beekeepers across the United States lost more than 40 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2014 to April 2015. While winter loss rates improved slightly compared to last year, summer losses—and consequently, total annual losses—were more severe. This is the first time summer losses have eclipsed winter losses since the survey began tracking summer losses five years ago. "We traditionally thought of winter losses as a more important indicator of health, because surviving the cold winter months is a crucial test for any bee colony," said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership.
A nymph-stage potato leafhopper (Empoasca fabae, right of center) rests on a leaf of alfalfa (Medicago sativa). The discoloration and scarring seen on the leaves is called "hopperburn," and is the result of a toxin contained in a leafhoppers saliva.
Entomology’s Dilip Venugopal and William Lamp, as well as their colleague Mitchell Baker of Queens College CUNY, whose paper "Climate change and phenology: Empoasca fabae (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) migration and severity of impact," was published online today in the journal PLOS ONE. Their results suggest that climate warming could be exacerbating crop damage caused by the potato leafhopper, a tiny migratory insect pest that causes millions of dollars worth of damage to crops in the eastern United States every year. Using six decades worth of data, the study found that potato leafhoppers arrive an average of 10 days earlier than in the early 1950s, and their infestations are more severe in the warmest years. These effects correspond to an overall increase in years with warmer than average temperatures over the same time period. "The potato leafhopper is a significant pest in this country, spanning multiple crops across a large area. The scale of influence is huge," said Dilip Venugopal, a research associate in entomology at University of Maryland and co-lead author of the study. "Earlier arrival dates make it particularly important for farmers to get out early in the season and scout for leafhoppers," said William Lamp, an associate professor of entomology at University of Maryland and a co-author of the study.
- Baker, M., Venugopal, D., and Lamp, W. 2015. Climate Change and Phenology: Empoasca fabae (Hemiptera: Cicadellidae) Migration and Severity of Impact. PLOS ONE. doi:10: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124915
- Venugopal, D., Martinson, H., Bergmann, E., Shrewsbury, P., and Raupp, M. 2015. Environmental Entomology.
- Raupp, M.J. and Szczepaniec, A. 2015. Collateral effects of neonicotinoid insecticides. Tree Care Industry. 24(2): 30 – 34.
- M. J. Raupp. P. M. Shrewsbury, and D. A. Herms. Disasters by Design: Why Insects Outbreak in Urban Forests. International Society of Arboriculture Western Chapter. Yosemite, CA. April 30, 2015.
- M. J. Raupp. P. M. Shrewsbury, and D. A. Herms. Biological control in the urban forest. International Society of Arboriculture Western Chapter. Yosemite, CA. April 29, 2015.
- Daniel Gruner gave a project talk titled “Drivers and Consequences of Mangrove Expansion into Temperate Salt Marsh” for the NASA Biodiversity and Ecological Forecasting project team, College Park, MD on April 23, 2015.
- M. J. Raupp, P. M. Shrewsbury, and D. A. Herms. Disasters by Design: Why Insects Outbreak in Urban Forests. Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America. Rehoboth, DE. March 16, 2015.
- M. J. Raupp. Turning the tables on invasive insect pests: Using wicked plant defenses in landscape ecosystems. Eastern Branch of the Entomological Society of America. Rehoboth, DE. March 16, 2015.
Entomology's Barbara Thorne Working to Prevent Large Termite Nests from Spreading in Florida-Sun Sentinel
The alarm-defense system of Cimex lectularius and its implications for pest management
Post by Lisa Kuder
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