Milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus)
Milkweed bug adult and nymph
Researchers involved: Approx. 50. Listed at http://arthropodgenomes.org/wiki/Oncopeltus_fasciatus
Size (or size of nearest relative): 975 MBp
Keywords (and why important): Novel chemistry, evolutionary branching, RNAi, Evo-Devo
Oncopeltus fasciatus has been an established lab organism for over 60 years, and has been used for a wide range of studies from physiology to development and evolution. As a relatively conservative and generalized species, it affords a baseline against which other species can be compared.
For example, this species has the same piercing and sucking type mouthparts as its less benign relatives, including the blood-sucking kissing bug, Rhodnius prolixus, and the brown marmorated stink bug, Halyomorpha halys, which are disease vector and agricultural pest species, respectively. Unlike the pest species, the benign, seed-feeding Oncopeltus can be functionally investigated in the lab by RNA interference (RNAi). Comparing the genomes, and conducting experimental lab work in Oncopeltus, will help to identify unique features of the pest species, and thus inform management strategies for them.
More generally, Oncopeltus is a key species for comparisons across the insects. It is one of the few experimentally tractable hemimetabolous species that can ground comparisons with the completely metamorphosing species of the Holometabola (e.g., flies, beetles, wasps). Topics investigated in this framework include reproductive biology and development of the legs, wings, body segments, extraembryonic membranes, and overall establishment of the body plan.
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