Dear Phytophaga enthusiasts, (apologies for the long email)
I am PI in the department of Entomology at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany.
How animals adapt to their environment is a fundamental question in Ecology. My primary interest lies in understanding the role of the digestive system in the adaptation of insects to their ecological niche.
Specifically, my work focuses on how beetles of the Phytophaga clade manage to break down the various components of the plant cell wall via the acquisition and evolution of novel gene families of digestive enzymes. To achieve this, I combine classical molecular biology and
biochemistry to evolutionary and genomics approaches. My ultimate goal is to obtain a close to exhaustive picture of how genes encoding plant cell wall degrading enzymes (PCWDEs) evolved within the Phytophaga clade of beetles and contributed to their immense radiation and biodiversity.
I recently obtained funding for a project I called “Phytophaga100” which aims to sequence the transcriptome of 100 representative beetle species covering at best (it is allowed to dream…) all subfamilies of the Phytophaga. Taking into account that we are interested in genes encoding digestive enzymes, we have to target actively feeding life stages (at best larvae, but adults are also fine if they actively feed), and most particularly we will target their digestive tract.
In this context, I am reaching to your scientific community to assess the possibility that some of you could send us beetle specimens for transcriptome sequencing. To achieve suitable conditions for the preparation of high quality RNA, we would need live insects sent on a bit of their host plant OR at best, already dissected guts sent in a solution called RNALater. If specimens are tiny, sequencing of whole insects can also be envisaged. Unfortunately, dried or ethanol-preserved specimens are not suitable for high quality RNA isolation.
To give you an idea of what we already have and what we would require to cover at best the Phytophaga clade, I am joining a table summarizing families/subfamilies and corresponding datasets and specimens to be sequenced we already have (Excel document, two spreadsheets: one for Chrysomeloidea, one for Curculionoidea). Samples prioritized for sequencing will belong to subfamilies for which we have no specimens yet or only one or two. However, if you believe that a given species should be sequenced for whatever scientifically valid reason, but is part of a subfamily for which extensive datasets are already available, it is also ok!
I also would like to point out that we are not specialists of
phylogenomics and we do not pretend to become some. Of course, putting our analysis of the evolution of PCWDEs into a phylogenetic context would definitely be a plus. We are looking for fruitful collaboration with people willing to help us, like the relationship we have with the group of Duane McKenna.
What we offer in return is the availability of our data after sequencing and before publication, and authorship on related publications according to the degree of involvement in the project of course.
We are looking forward to your feedback and hopefully to the beetle specimens you will send us!
Please feel free to forward this email to any person you think would be interested in helping us.
Yannick Pauchet & his team