Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: The genome of the locust has been sequenced by a team of Chinese scientists.
The genome sequence of Locusta migratoria is the largest animal genome sequenced so far and has provided the means with which its genes can be targeted by insecticides.
Large clusters of the insect`s genes are associated with long-distance flight, eating plants and metabolising food.
But there are also many repeated, mobile sections of DNA, called transposable elements, that were never weeded out by evolution and remain in the genome.
An ancient peril that can eat its own bodyweight in food in a single day, the locust is capable of inflicting famine and wiping out livelihoods when it swarms.
In one of the biggest documented events, billions of locusts swarmed across 29 million square kilometres (11.2 million square miles) of land in 60 countries in 1988, even crossing the Atlantic from Africa to the Caribbean.
The genome code is a draft, but once it has been polished, could serve as a blueprint for scientists seeking new ways of attacking the voracious insect.
It throws up "hundreds of potential insecticide target genes," according to the probe, headed by Le Kang of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Finding a smart, environmentally friendly way to kill the pest is a major goal, the authors noted.
The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
(With Agency inputs)