Secrets to Insect Adaption to Climate Change Uncovered in the European Corn Borer Moth
Biologists led by Tufts University have found two genes from the European
corn borer moth (Ostrinia nubilalis) that may allow some insect species to
survive climate change by adjusting their biological annual clocks while
others succumb. The research team identified variation in two circadian
clock genes - per and Pdfr - that enable different populations of the moth
to adapt their transitions to longer or shorter winters.
Winter is expected to decrease by a month in the next century, and as
climate change is already underway, many insect species are experiencing
profound effects. Earlier springtime activity and the emergence from dormant
winter state (diapause) allow insect populations to seek out and find
favorable environments to produce more generations per year. These
activities improve the survivability of the insects who undergo rapid
environmental changes. The researchers scanned the corn borer genome among
five moth species and found that the two genes correlating with this
activity are the genes period (per) and pigment dispersing factor receptor
(Pdfr). They further predicted that intense selection on variants of these
two genes is likely to be important to adaptation and range expansion under
continued global climate change.
The two genes are known to interact with the circadian pacemaker neurons in
insect brains, where they synchronize biological activity to the daily
cycles of night and day.