Xerces Blue butterfly genome sequenced

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Newswise — Xerces Blue Butterfly (Glaucoma) was native to the coastal dunes of San Francisco, USA. As the city grew, much of the butterfly habitat was destroyed, relegating the butterfly population to Golden Gate National Park. Its wings were a deep iridescent blue with characteristic white spots on its ventral side. The last surviving specimen of this species was discovered in 1941 by entomologist W. Harry Lange. It is believed to be the first prehistoric extinct insect species. Its demise has made the bird a global symbol of human-induced extinction, so much so that the famous American conservation group, the Xerces Society, has been given its name.

A previous study in 2022 recovered mitochondrial DNA from Xerces blue butterfly specimens and compared it to silvery blue butterfly specimens (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)its closest extant relatives, and concluded that they were indeed distinct species and not just distinct populations.

The study was led by MCNB Director and IBE (CSIC-UPF) Fellow Carles Lalueza-Fox and IBE (CSIC-UPF) Fellow Roger Vila, with the participation of ICREA Fellow Tomàs Marques-Bonet. . Researchers at the School of Medicine and Life Sciences (MELIS) ​​at the University of Pompeu Fabra and IBE and professor at the same university, published in eLife, will have sequenced the genomes of four Xerset blue butterflies and seven silver blue butterflies by 2018. succeeded in. 80 and 100 from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. The researchers were able to speculate that this two species of He diverged between He 1 million years ago and He 2 million years ago, representing two different evolutionary lineages.

A comparison of the genomes of the two species revealed that the DNA of the Xerces blue butterfly showed a high incidence of inbreeding and signs of population decline. This could be used to identify other insect species that are threatened by human activity and extinction patterns that differ from them. Among vertebrates, it is not well known at present. It could also pave the way for the extinction of this popular butterfly, a project that has long fascinated the scientific community.

Xerence blue genome reveals its extinction history

The results show that the Xerces blue butterfly experienced a significant population decline over tens of thousands of years, possibly caused by climate change that did not affect the silver blue. However, habitat destruction by humans was the eventual trigger for extinction.

This follows on from the discovery of genomic traits typical of small populations, such as low genetic diversity, long chromosome segments without genetic variation, and high frequencies of deleterious alleles that impair individual viability. Conclusion. An endangered species today.

Genomic clues may save other endangered insects

The Xerces blue butterfly is a symbol of insect extinction worldwide. Now its genome could help prevent the extinction of other endangered insects whose population declines are not immediately apparent.

“Endangered mammals are often easier to detect because they can be counted,” explains IBE researcher (CSIC-UPF) Roger Billa, who co-led the study. . “But there are many endangered insects whose status is not recognized because it is very difficult for us to survey their populations, which generally seem to be very abundant. They can be highly sensitive to climate change and human actions, which is why we believe that genomic traits indicative of declining populations of Xerces butterflies act as a warning to detect vulnerable insects in future studies. I believe it can help.”

Knowing the whole genome is the first step toward eradicating extinction

The extinction of insects, especially pollinators, is a very serious global ecological problem. Therefore, using CRISPR-based genetic engineering techniques to make species such as the Xerces Blue butterfly extinct is of great interest to the scientific community.

“Because the Xerces blue butterfly is an insect that has disappeared relatively recently, the impact on the ecosystem due to its re-emergence is mitigated, and because it appears for a limited time, there is no risk of pests or overgrowth, making it an excellent choice for endangered species. “We hope that its complete genome will help future end-extinction efforts,” said IBE (CSIC-UPF) researcher and director Carles Lalueza-Fox. I’m here. The Natural Science Museum of Barcelona co-led the study.

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