The draft genome sequence of the migratory locust is reported this week in Nature Communications. The study highlights genes that may be involved in locusts’ adaptation to long distance migration and provides insights into the sustainable management of these insects.
Locusts are considered by many to be agricultural pests. As their population size increases, locusts change from solitary to gregarious individuals and form large swarms that have been known to cause severe crop destruction and economic losses. To understand locust behaviour and the mechanisms underlying this phase change, Le Kang and colleagues sequence the genome of the locust, Locusta migratoria, and further analyse the regulation of gene expression using brain tissue from solitary and gregarious locusts.
The study highlights genes involved in energy metabolism and antioxidative responses that are consistent with the locusts’ adaptions to long-distance flight and identifies genes that could be useful as pesticide targets. Furthermore, the authors report a neuronal mechanism that may influence locust phase change, thereby shedding light on this biologically important process.