I know … this paper is not describing the genome of a plant or a fungus, but it is unraveling the 273 Mb genome of the superbe monarch butterfly — a migratory Lepideptora traveling long distance to reach its overwintering grounds in central America. Anyway, Danaus plexippus is interacting with plants and is thus welcome to fly over this blog.
The authors summarized their work as follows:
[We present the draft 273 Mb genome of the migratory monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and a set of 16,866 protein-coding genes. Orthology properties suggest that the Lepidoptera are the fastest evolving insect order yet examined. Compared to the silkmoth Bombyx mori, the monarch genome shares prominent similarity in orthology content, microsynteny,and protein family sizes. The monarch genome reveals a vertebrate-like opsin whose existence in insects is widespread; a full repertoire of molecular components for the monarch circadian clockwork; all members of the juvenile hormone biosynthetic pathway whose regulation shows unexpected sexual dimorphism; additional molecular signatures of oriented flight behavior; microRNAs that are differentially expressed between summer and migratory butterflies; monarch-specific expansions of chemoreceptors potentially important for long-distance migration; and a variant of the sodium/potassium pump that underlies a valuable chemical defense mechanism. The monarch genome enhances our ability to better understand the genetic and molecular basis of long-distance migration.]
Figure. Life cycle of the monarch butterfly. Complete metamorphosis from egg to larva (five instars) to pupa (chrysalis) to adult. The male butterfly (upper right) has visible black spots on its hind wings that are missing in females (lower left, underwing view). The larvae feed on milkweed (plants of the genus Asclepias). Photograph of engraving from James Edward Smith, Natural History of the Rarer Lepidopterous Insects of Georgia; from the Observations of John Abbot, 1797.