Researchers have sequenced the genome and transcriptome of the milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) to investigate its biology and how it thrives on what is for other animals a toxic diet, they reported April 2 in Genome Biology.
In comparing the widely varying true “bugs” of the order Hemiptera, the researchers found that liquid-guzzling members appear to have lost a chunk of their smell and taste receptors along with some metabolic enzymes, which may help digest milkweed. In contrast to blood-sucking bed bugs or sap-drinking aphids, milkweed bugs and their plant-munching relatives have kept a wider array of sensory proteins, and some of their more recently acquired genes, which help them eat tough cellulose, seem to be grabbed from bacteria.
K.A. Panfilio et al., “Molecular evolutionary trends and feeding ecology diversification in the Hemiptera, anchored by the milkweed bug genome,” Genome Biology, doi:10.1186/s13059-019-1660-0, 2019.