Sequencing pollen DNA to discover insect migratory routes

Sequencing pollen DNA to discover insect migratory routes

News from IBE (CSIC-UPF)

The migration of insects is a natural phenomenon as important as it is unknown. In fact, it has only been studied in depth in some emblematic species, such as the migratory locust and the monarch butterfly. The reasons, in short, are the technical limitations to study this behaviour. Now, in a study published in the journal Molecular Ecology Resources, researchers from Institut de Biologia Evolutiva (IBE: CSIC – Universitat Pompeu Fabra), Institute of Botany of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), have developed a technique that eludes these limitations and therefore allows to easily study the migratory movements of insects: the DNA metabarcoding analysis of the pollen transported by insects.

The results of this study represent an important discovery from the point of view of the plants, because it demonstrates, for the first time that the transcontinental pollination by migratory insects is possible. It is a phenomenon to be taken into account both in wild and in cultivated plants because it enables plants from very distant locations to mix.

«We hope that the technique opens a new line of research that helps to clarify which insects migrate, which routes they follow and when, as we still do not know much about the impact of insect migration for ecosystems and the transmission of diseases», says Gerard Talavera, co-author of the article, researcher at IBE and National Geographic Explorer.

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IBE news

Suchan, T. Pollen metabarcoding as a tool for tracking long-distance insect migrations Molecular Ecology Resources (2018)