Getting at the root of the mountain pine beetle's rapid habitat expansion and forest

April 22, 2014

The mountain pine beetle has wreaked havoc in North America, across forests from the American Southwest to British Columbia and Alberta, with the potential to spread all the way to the Atlantic coast. Millions of acres of forest have been lost, with severe economic and ecological impacts from a beetle outbreak ten times larger than previous outbreaks.

Because of its importance and impact on forestry, the mountain 's genome has been recently sequenced. Using this new resource, authors Janes, examined how the pine beetle could undergo such rapid habitat range expansion, and if population genetics and the cataloguing of genome wide mutations could shed any light on possible molecular causes of the outbreak. From beetles collected at 27 sites in Alberta and British Columbia, they looked for any patterns amongst their catalog of 1536 mutations (single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs).

They found several candidate genetic markers and conclude that the may have been able to spread by adjusting its cellular and metabolic functions to better withstand cooler climates and facilitate a larger geographic dispersal area. Such information could give important new clues for the forestry industry to help curb the current devastation of North American forests from this pest.

Explore further: Researcher looking for way to minimize spread of mountain pine beetle

Related Stories

Mountain pine beetle marching east from Alberta

April 4, 2011

A University of Alberta-led research team has determined that the mountain pine beetle has invaded jack pine forests in Alberta, opening up the possibility for an infestation that could stretch across the Prairies and keep ...

Pining for a beetle genome

March 26, 2013

The sequencing and assembly of the genome of the mountain pine beetle, Dendroctonus ponderosae, is published online this week in Genome Biology. The species is native to North America, where it is currently wreaking havoc ...

Researchers help unlock pine beetle's Pandora's box

April 5, 2013

( —Twenty researchers—more than half of them Simon Fraser University graduates and/or faculty—could become eastern Canada's knights in shining white lab coats. A paper detailing their newly created sequencing ...

Beetle bait could help save Alberta pine forests

November 14, 2013

University of Alberta researchers are closing in on developing an effective bait to get ahead of the destructive spread of mountain pine beetle, which is now killing not only lodgepole pine forests, but also jack pine in ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.