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Butterfly and moth genomes unchanged for 250 million years
New understanding about the evolution of butterflies and moths is expected to inform future conservation efforts.
Their chromosomes remain the same despite 160,000 diverse species.

An analysis of butterfly and moth genomes has revealed that their chromosomes remain largely unchanged since their last common ancestor, over 250 million years ago.

The findings highlight key insights into their biology, evolution and diversification, and could inform future conservation efforts.

Researchers from the Wellcome Sanger Institute, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, analysed over 200 high-quality chromosome-level genomes to understand their evolutionary history.

They identified a genetic stability across the samples, despite the diversity in wing patterns, size and caterpillar form across over 160,000 species globally.

They also discovered rare groups of butterfly and moth species which broke from these genetic norms, and underwent genetic rearrangements. This included chromosome fusions, where two chromosomes merge, and chromosome fissions, where a chromosome splits.

These findings highlight the constraints which govern the genome evolution of these ecologically vital insects. It also offers insights into the factors which enable some species to defy these rules of evolution.

New understanding about the evolution of butterflies and moths is expected to better inform future conservation efforts, supporting the creation of targeted strategies, monitoring of ecosystem health, adapting to climate change, and incorporating of genetic information into other conservation initiatives.

The work forms part of the Darwin Tree of Life Project, which aims to sequence all 70,000 species in Great Britain and Ireland.

It also contributes to ongoing studies, as researchers aim to identify the processes which drive the evolution of chromosomes in these diverse species.

Charlotte Wright, the first author of the study at the Wellcome Sanger Institute, said: “It is striking that despite species diversifying extensively, their chromosomes have remained remarkably intact. This challenges the idea that stable chromosomes may limit species diversification.

“Indeed, this feature might be a base for building diversity. We hope to find clues in rare groups that have evaded these rules.”

The full study can be found in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

Image © Shutterstock

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Rabbit Awareness Week set to return this summer

News Story 1
 Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) is returning this summer, running from 24-28 June 2024. The theme for this year will be 'Healthy Diet, Happy Bunnies'.

The focus on rabbits' diet comes after the most recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report report revealed that 42 per cent of veterinary professionals identified inappropriate diet as one of the five most important rabbit welfare issues that need to be address.

The campaign will include veterinary blogs, videos, and digital waiting room resources. Practices can sign up to receive updates about RAW. 

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CVS Group hit by cyber attack

CVS Group, which owns more than 450 veterinary practices in the UK, has been hit by a cyber attack.

In a statement, the group said the incident involved unauthorised external access to a limited number of its IT systems. As soon as the attack was discovered, the group took its IT systems temporarily offline, causing 'considerable operational disruption'.

It has warned that the security steps taken and ongoing plans to move its operational systems and IT infrastructure to the Cloud are likely to have an ongoing impact over a number of weeks.

Due to the risk that personal information was accessed, CVS has informed the Information Commissioner's Office. The company is working with third party consultants to investigate the incident.