A March 2023 study says that the Jewel Beetle evolves its vision to see new colours.
Scientists at the University of Minnesota in America are studying the Jewel Beetle, known for its elytron (shell) of vivid, iridescent, and metallic colours.
The Jewel Beetle is an insect in the Buprestidae family of wood-boring beetles. It has large, well-developed eyes, and scientists in the College of Biological Sciences at the University of Minnesota want to learn about its vision.
The scientists knew that many insects see ultraviolet (UV) light as well as blue and green. Around 300 million years ago, beetles couldn’t see blue light, and this might be because they were nocturnal (active at night) or they lived in areas with low light. As beetles developed over the years, scientists found that beetles duplicated their genes to make new parts of the colour spectrum visible to them, so that they could see more complicated and more diverse colours.
From their research, the scientists isolated four different gene types, which suggests that Jewel Beetles probably have complex colour sensitivity.
They found that Jewel Beetles have evolved additional blue and orange colour sensitivity by duplicating and changing their UV and green visual genes. The scientists documented their research in the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal.
This diversified colour vision means that the Jewel Beetle can see some colours, and that they use vision to find a plant or a mate.
Researcher Camilla Sharkey said that the next stage of the research is to determine if specific types of colour vision can be predicted from genes, and how beetles use colour vision.
Information sources: University of Minnesota. “Jewel beetles evolve to see new colors by duplicating their genes: New research probes the vibrant vision and complex evolutionary history of jewel beetles.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2023. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2023/03/230310123524.htm>.
Molecular Biology and Evolution, 2023; 40 (2) DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msad023
Photographer: Martina Nicolls
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