An Alteration In Just Two Genes Made Life Much Easier For One Species Of Water Strider

October 23rd, 2017

An Alteration In Just Two Genes Made Life Much Easier For One Species Of Water Strider

The name “water striders” may not sound familiar to you, but these are insects that you have likely seen a few times in the past. Water striders are aptly named as they are capable of traveling over the surface of water. If you have ever been fishing, then you have spotted them before. Scientists have been interested in learning more about these unique insects for quite some time. Recently, a group of researchers found that one water strider species underwent a minor genetic change at some point in the past. This genetic change enabled them to travel across harsh, and fast moving flows of water. Other water strider species can only travel on still water surfaces. This water strider species took on different features, and their general nature changed only because two individual genes had become altered.

All water strider species are skilled at traveling on the surface of water. However, one tropical species of water strider known as Rhagovelia is able to travel across fast flowing streams, and violent water rapids. This genus of water strider is different from other species because it has an extra appendage on its middle leg. This appendage unfolds like a Japanese fan, and it propels these insects above the surface of water at relatively fast speeds. Since no other water strider species existing today possesses this appendage, scientists have become interested in where the appendage came from, and at what point in evolutionary history the mutation occurred. In an effort to learn more about the origin of the genes responsible for the helpful appendage, scientists analyzed the genes of different water strider species, and they referred to the evolutionary history of water strider genomes. Eventually, the scientists were able to determine the exact point in time when the genetic alteration took place because a duplicate of the altered gene was found in an ancestral water strider lineage. Ultimately, the mutant water strider’s fan-like extra appendage has enabled them to dominate regions that contain small and large water bodies.

Are you surprised that the majority of water strider species that are not endowed with the additional and advantageous extra appendage are able to survive alongside water striders that do possess the extra appendage?



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October 2017