Molecular Systematics provides new tools and techniques for understanding the identity and evolution of insects and their relatives.

The Challenge

Embracing new technologies in the collection

Technology has come a long way since ANIC was established back in 1928, and with the collection currently housing over 12 million specimens, embracing the latest technology can help unlock valuable undiscovered information filed away in the collection's many drawers.

Our Response

Molecular genetic data is the key to unlocking new information

The next frontier for the insect collection is to use an insect's DNA to help understand its identity, its evolution, and its connection to its relatives.

Molecular techniques are now being used around the world to assist with studying the structure and form of organisms (morphological analysis), and we're using these to expand the functionality and usefulness of the collection to create a greater understanding of a wide range of species, which helps inform our research projects.

We now have the capability to analyse and generate information from single genes all the way to full genomes, and we're using this to help tackle some of the world's greatest agricultural pests.

Tackling agricultural pests

We're currently investigating the phylogeny (the relationship and evolutionary history) and the genomics of the moth genus Helicoverpa and its relatives, which include some of the world's most harmful agricultural pests such as the Cotton Bollworm, the Corn Earworm, the Australian Bollworm and the Oriental Tobacco Budworm.

A robust phylogenetic hypothesis for the group will serve as an evolutionary framework for comparative genomics to address questions about the evolution of pesticide resistance and the moths' ability to feed on a vast range of host plants (with 200 hosts being recorded for the Australian Bollworm). 

Novel technologies and approaches

We're also exploring novel sequencing technologies and approaches for phylogenetics and integrative taxonomy by participating in Oxford Nanopore Technologies MinION Access Program, where we're testing a memory-stick-sized device that makes portable, real-time, single-molecule sequencing of very long DNA fragments possible.

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