Journal of Undergraduate Research


Jewel Beetles, Emerald Ash Borer, ash forests


Life Sciences




The Jewel Beetles (Coleoptera: Buprestidae) contain ~15,000 of the most stunning yet least understood species in the animal kingdom (Fig. 1; Bellamy and Nelson, 2002). Although it is the 8th largest beetle family and contains many species of biological interest and economic importance, the family is poorly studied. To date, only one molecular phylogeny has been published for the family, and the six subfamilial classifications are still in flux (Evans et al. 2014). Of particular interest within the family Buprestidae is the Emerald Ash Borer; (EAB; Agrilus planipennis) a destructive pest of great economic importance (Fairmare). The EAB was introduced from Asia into North American ash forests in 2002 and has quickly spread to fifteen states and two Canadian provinces, becoming the primary destroyer of ash trees throughout the region (Vannatta et al. 2012). Studies have shown that male EABs find mates and ash trees primarily through visual cues, and seem to be particularly attracted to purple traps (Lelito et al. 2008). Due to the lack of a robust familial phylogeny, very little is known about the relationship of the EAB to other members within the family Buprestidae, which includes other potential pests that could cause similar economic impacts if introduced into North American forests. This study creates a molecular phylogeny to give context in which to study Buprestid visual systems and identify other potential pests. In addition, this study uses transcriptomics to understand EAB visual systems at the molecular level. Traditionally, beetles only have two opsin copies: one long wavelength (LW) and one UV. Due to the highly visual nature of the EAB as compared to other beetles, we aim to see if there are additional opsin copies and where the EAB visual spectrum is most sensitive.

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