The sternotomis callais beetle, otherwise known as the flat-faced longhorn beetle, resides in Central Africa. Rockfish, a species of fish known for their long lifespan, are found along North Pacific coasts. At first glance, it’s hard to find any similarities between these two creatures. But both have a lot to teach us about biology and evolution, as evidenced by two research articles cited in a recent episode of the Nature podcast. Read on to find out why.
Longhorn Beetles and the Biology of Photonic Crystal Structure
If you’ve visited a zoo, watched a nature program, or flipped through a book of curious creepy-crawlies, you’ll likely recognize the unusual longhorn beetle. These beetles are found in many parts of the world and are named for their extremely long antennae which can, in some cases, grow to be longer than the body of the beetle itself. Late last year, a trio of researchers at Tokyo University chose to study a particularly vibrant kind of longhorn beetle: the sternotomis callais beetle, or flat-faced longhorn beetle. This species is found in Central Africa and is known for its stunning, bright-green hues. The Tokyo University researchers wanted to learn more about the beetles’ coloring, so they studied the creatures’ signature green scales. Upon close inspection, they found something surprising: a crystalline pattern known as a photonic crystal structure. Yes, the structure is eye-catching – but this research ultimately suggests that researchers have barely scratched the surface of naturally occurring photonic crystals like the gemstone opal, for example, as well as crystalline structures that develop on living creatures like the longhorn beetle.
Rockfish, Inflammation, and Genomic Diversity
The Nature podcast cited another study alongside the beetle study – but this study has nothing to do with insects. Instead, a team of researchers funded by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences set out to study rockfish. These interesting fish are found along North Pacific coasts and are known for their lifespans, some of which can stretch up to 200 years. However, some rockfish species have much shorter lifespans of only about 11 years. The researchers wanted to know: Is there some sort of genetic driver behind the rockfish’s long lifespan? If so, why do lifespans vary so much between species?
To find out, the team conducted a genomic analysis of 88 rockfish species. This, combined with in-depth genetic sequencing on six species, allowed the authors to draw several conclusions. First, they found several genetic pathways that promoted immunity and DNA repair. The researchers also explored the idea that inflammation may modulate the aging process in rockfish. Overall, the study was an interesting look into how genetics drive genomic diversity – specifically, the large variance in lifespans between very similar fish.
Longhorn Beetles, Rockfish, and Innovations in Biology
So, what do longhorn beetles and rockfish have in common? On the surface, very little. After all, these studies were conducted separately and just happened to be mentioned in the same podcast episode. However, studies like these prove that ongoing research into every aspect of biology – genetics, longevity, and superficial traits like the beetles’ crystal scales – have far-reaching implications. For example, studying variance in rockfish lifespans could help researchers explore lifespans in other animals – even humans. Meanwhile, photonic crystal structures like those exhibited by longhorn beetles could play a part in renewable energy. The study of biology connects us all, even if that connection isn’t clear at first.
Longhorn beetles and rockfish may be wildly different creatures, but the results of both studies prove one thing: biological research drives progress in some very unexpected ways.
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