Locust genome exposes 100s of pesticide targets

2014-01-15 07:30
A Palestinian farmer holding a locust at a farm in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib, AFP)

A Palestinian farmer holding a locust at a farm in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip. (Said Khatib, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Chinese scientists said on Tuesday they had unravelled the genetic code of the locust, laying bare "hundreds" of genes that can be targeted by insecticides.

The genetic code of Locusta migratoria is remarkably big - at 6.5 gigabytes, it is the largest animal genome sequenced so far, they reported in the journal Nature Communications.

Large clusters of the insect's genes are associated with long-distance flight, eating plants and metabolising food, they said.

But there are also many repeated, mobile sections of DNA, called transposable elements, that were never weeded out by evolution and remain in the genome, the scientists said.

An ancient peril that can eat its own bodyweight in food in a single day, the locust is capable of inflicting famine and wiping out livelihoods when it swarms.

Pleasure triggers

In one of the biggest documented events, billions of locusts swarmed across 29 million square kilometres of land in 60 countries in 1988, even crossing the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean.

The genome code is a draft, but once it has been polished, could serve a blueprint for scientists seeking new ways of attacking the voracious insect.

It throws up "hundreds of potential insecticide target genes," according to the probe, headed by Le Kang of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

Finding a smart, environmentally friendly way to kill the pest is a major goal, the authors noted.

Previous work into locusts has found a biochemical mechanism that prompts the creatures to swarm.

Locusts are usually solitary, but are stimulated into gathering and searching for food en masse by jostling, which triggers serotonin, a pleasure chemical in the brain.

Once in swarm mode, locusts change colour from green to bright yellow, gaining large muscles that equip them for prolonged flight.

Read more on:    france  |  animals

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
1 comment
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.