The genome of the mountain pine beetle – the insect that has devastated B.C.’s lodgepole pine forests – has been decoded by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre.
This is a first for the mountain pine beetle and only the second beetle genome ever sequenced. The first was the red flour beetle, a pest of stored grains. The genome is described in a study published Tuesday in the journal Genome Biology.
“We know a lot about what the beetles do,” says Christopher Keeling, a research associate in Prof. Joerg Bohlmann’s lab at the Michael Smith Laboratories. “But without the genome, we don’t know exactly how they do it.”
Mountain pine beetle epidemic
The mountain pine beetle has infested over 18 million hectares of lodgepole pine in British Columbia – an area more than five times larger than Vancouver Island – causing enormous damage to the environment and forest industry. In recent years, the insect has moved further north and east, over the Canadian Rockies, and is now approaching the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. It is also beginning to infest other pine trees – jack pine, a jack-lodgepole hybrid, limber pine, and the endangered whitebark pine. Jack pine boreal forests extend from Alberta to the Atlantic provinces. The mountain pine beetle also lives in Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona and South Dakota.
About the study
This study was funded by Genome BC, Genome Alberta, Genome Canada, NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council), and the BC Ministry of Forestry, and is part of The Tria Project: Mountain Pine Beetle System Genomics, an interdisciplinary, collaborative research project led by Joerg Bohlmann (UBC) and Janice Cooke (University of Alberta) to study many aspects of the beetle, associated fungi, and the tree. For more information, visit: http://tria-net.srv.ualberta.ca/