Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Huge insect diversity revealed by genetic technologies

(Phys.org) —The diversity of plants, mammals and birds in Australia is well-known, but scientists have very little idea of how many hundreds of thousands of species of Australian insects exist.

Researchers from The University of Queensland are using DNA technology and chromosome analysis to tackle the difficult task of finding out just how many bugs are out there.

UQ PhD candidate Penelope Mills said accurately assessing diversity was made particularly difficult by the number of "cryptic" species.

"Cryptic species are groups of organisms that appear identical but are genetically quite distinct," she said.

"With the availability of inexpensive DNA sequencing technology it has become apparent that the number of distinct species is much higher than previously thought.

"Our recent research into scale insects revealed triple the number of recognised species, and we expect that the further we look into insect diversity, the more species will be revealed."

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