Aphids can make their own carotenoids -- organic pigments that serve a variety of functions in animals, but until now, were believed to be produced only by bacteria, plants, and fungi.
The small insects appear to have acquired the carotenoid-making ability via lateral gene transfer from a fungal species, according to a study published this week in Science. "This is the first documentation of animals being able to produce their own carotenoids," said evolutionary biologist linkurl:Alex Badyaev;http://www.u.arizona.edu/%7Eabadyaev of the University of Arizona, who did not participate in the research. "This is a huge deal because carotenoids are [some] of the most diverse biological compounds [and have] a tremendous variety of important functions in animals -- everything from vision...
differences in carotenoid content.
Green and red individuals represent
a naturally occurring polymorphism;
yellow-green individuals are mutants
derived from a red parental line.
Image: Charles Hedgcock, R.B.P
N.A. Moran and T. Jarvik, "Lateral transfer of genes from fungi underlies carotenoid production in aphids," Science:328:624-7, 2010.
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