Humans have always been in awe of birds: their beautiful feathers, their graceful flight, and their sweet songs. These are just some of the features that distinguish them from other animals. Birds are extremely diverse—with over 10,000 living species on Earth—and are found in all kinds of environments, from extremely hot and dry deserts, to the frigid Antarctic.
Penguins are particularly interesting for scientists as they are flightless birds that can swim and have evolved to thrive in the hostile Antarctic environment where few animals can survive. Now, we are a step closer to understanding their evolutionary history, population sizes in response to historical climate change, as well as the genes involved in their ability to adapt to such extreme climates, with an exciting new study published last month in GigaScience, an online open-access BGI-BioMed Central journal.
Few organisms can survive in harsh environments, such as extreme cold or dry conditions, but some species equipped with special adaptations can thrive. The Antarctic midge, Belgica Antarctica, the only wingless insect native to Antarctica, has the smallest insect genome among those sequenced, a likely adaptation to the extreme conditions it is exposed to, according to a new study. Led by Professor Joanna Kelley at Washington State University, US, the study is the first to sequence the genome of an insect found in the poles.
Two Antarctica midges
Are the plummeting temperatures leaving you chilled to the core? Wishing the deep freeze is over soon? While we can get warm and cozy staying indoors with heating and can throw on layers of clothes to cover up our body when out in the bitter cold, what about insects? Ever wondered how they cope with the long, harsh winter in the Arctic?