The genomes of two wasp species, the European hornet and the Asian hornet (or yellow-legged wasp), have been sequenced for the first time by a team led by UCL (University College London) scientists.
By comparing these decoded genomes with those from northern giant hornets, which were recently sequenced by another team, the researchers uncovered clues as to why the hornets are so successful as an invasive species around the world. Their work has been published in Scientific reports.
Hornets are the largest of the social wasps. They play important ecological roles as top predators of other insects. In their native regions, they are natural pest control agents, helping to regulate insect populations such as flies, beetles, caterpillars, and other types of wasps. These services are essential for healthy and functional ecosystems, as well as for agriculture.
But wasps also tend to be very successful as invasive species. They can become established in areas where they do not belong, and cause potentially huge ecological and economic damage by hunting down important pollinators, such as honey bees, wild bees, and hoverflies.
To better understand how this species managed to expand its ranges, the international team of scientists investigated the genomes of three wasp species.
A genome sequence is the set of instructions – the genetic code – that makes a species. Comparing the genomes of different species can give insight into their biology: their behavior, their evolution, and how they interact with the environment.
Researchers have recently sequenced the genomes of the native European hornet, Vespa crabro—an important predator protected in parts of Europe—and the Asian yellow-legged hornet Vespa velutina, which has become well established across much of Europe over the last 20 years and threatens local ecosystems, and has been occasionally seen in the Kingdom. United. The research team compared these with the genome of the northern giant hornet, Vespa mandrinia, a species known for its role as pest controller, pollinator and food provider in its native Asian range. It is a recent arrival in North America, where it may threaten native fauna.
By analyzing the differences between the three related species, the researchers were able to identify genes that evolved rapidly since the species differentiated itself from other wasps and from each other, and they found some noteworthy genes that evolve rapidly, particularly with regard to communication and smell. (Smell).
First author of the study, Dr Emilyn Favreau (UCL Center for Biodiversity and Ecology), said, “We were excited to find evidence of rapid genetic evolution in the genomes of these wasps, compared to other social insects. Lots of genes have been duplicated or mutated. These included genes.” that are likely involved in communication and environmental sensing.”
Genome evolution allows organisms to adapt to their environment and make the most of their surroundings by developing new behaviors and functions.
Co-author Dr Alessandro Cini, who began working at UCL before moving to the University of Pisa, said, “These results are exciting, as they may help explain why hornets are so successful in establishing new groups in non-native areas.
“Wasps are accidentally transported by humans to different parts of the world. All that is required is the transfer of a small number of mated queens, perhaps hidden in a payload. The genomes indicate that wasps have a lot of genes that are involved in detecting and responding to chemicals.” Signals — might make them particularly good at adapting to catching different types of prey in non-native areas.”
Senior author Professor Cyrian Sumner (UCL Center for Biodiversity and Environment) said: “These genomes are just the beginning. The genomes of more than 3,000 insect species have now been sequenced through worldwide efforts, but wasps are underrepresented among these species.
“Geneomes tell us about aspects of ecology and evolution that other methods cannot. Evolution has provided these insects with an incredible genetic toolkit to exploit their environment and hunt down their prey.”
Armed with these new genomes, the scientists hope to help improve the management of wasp populations, both for their ecosystem services as pest control in native areas, and as ecological threats in areas where they are invasive.
Emeline Favreau et al, Putting wasps on the genomic map, Scientific reports (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-023-31932-x
the quote: Newly Sequenced Hornet Genomes Can Help Explain Invasion Success (2023, April 21) Retrieved April 21, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-04-newly-sequenced-hornet-genomes-invasion.html
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