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Science

Insects Develop Pesticide Resistance Through Symbiosis With Gut Flora 144

Posted by samzenpus
from the with-a-little-help-from-my-little-friends dept.
First time accepted submitter blinkin247 writes "The indiscriminate spraying of pesticides has probably caused as many problems as it has solved, but here's one that was not expected: some bacteria have decided that insecticide is a very tasty meal. Unfortunately for us, one of the strains of bacteria that has evolved the ability to digest the toxin happens to be able to find a home in an insect's gut. When it does so, it provides the insect with resistance."
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Insects Develop Pesticide Resistance Through Symbiosis With Gut Flora

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  • Curses! (Score:5, Funny)

    by masternerdguy (2468142) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:17PM (#39801845)
    Darwin strikes again!
    • Why blame Darwin for something Monsato or Bayer dids? Poor chump, all he did was to set up a logical framework to predict what would happen if we spray chemicals indiscriminately.
    • by datsa (1951424)
      I find this story pretty hopeful, actually. "Life finds a way". Maybe we are also a more resilient species than we give ourselves credit for...
      • Your species is "a strain of bacteria that lives in the gut of insects" ?
        Yet you've mastered the art of using slashdot ?

        Well let me be the first to say: I for one welcome our new intelligent bacterial overlords.

    • Re:Curses! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by multicoregeneral (2618207) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:50PM (#39802085) Homepage
      Yes. The creationists will have a hard time explaining this one. My guess is that they'll choose to ignore it, just like they do with all the other proofs of evolution in action. What I find interesting about all this is how quickly these bacteria actually evolve into totally new organisms. I mean, it makes sense with their short lives and fast reproductive cycles, but it's just amazing to watch.
      • Re:Curses! (Score:4, Interesting)

        by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:03PM (#39802159) Journal

        Yes. The creationists will have a hard time explaining this one.

        My guess is they'll say that bacteria with this resistance already existed in the population, but spraying made it so only those bacteria survived.

        And for all I know, in this case they might be right.

        • by binarstu (720435)

          Yes. The creationists will have a hard time explaining this one.

          My guess is they'll say that bacteria with this resistance already existed in the population, but spraying made it so only those bacteria survived. And for all I know, in this case they might be right.

          They would almost certainly be right. What you have just described is natural selection, in a nutshell. Natural selection can only work on existing variation in a population. If no resistant bacteria were present in a population, then the entire population would by wiped out by the pesticide.

          • by jamstar7 (694492)
            Natural selection IS evolution in action. That was Darwin's whole point, that species will adapt to an environment, and those that adapt the best will overwhelm those that can't.
            • It's only half of it. The other half is that you need to have new variations, or in modern terminology, genetic mutations.

              There are few creationists who deny natural selection, at least if you are patient enough to explain it to them. And that's the doorway to getting them to accept the whole thing.
            • by labnet (457441)

              Natural selection IS evolution in action

              Rubbish.
              Natural Selection is the selection of pre existing characteristics. (Creationists agree)
              Evolution is the mutation/creation of NEW genetic information that produces new beneficial function that was not there before. (Creationists disagree)

              • No, evolution is the union of both things, although "beneficial" isn't strictly necessary, and "NEW genetic information" is ill-defined.

                Do you disagree that mutations happen: insertions, deletions, changes? All have been observed.

                If so, we can walk down the road of those proofs. If not, what mechanism do you propose that prevents these things from producing "NEW genetic information". be sure to define "NEW genetic information".

                • by labnet (457441)

                  Yes, I believe insertions, deletions, changes occur, but I also believe that random changes produce increased disorder not order.

                  Changed DNA can result in
                  - reduced function (on a scale from death to barely percieved)
                  - no change in function.
                  - increased function

                  If I have a billion self replicating programs, and randomly change the object code in all of them every second, they all won't suddenly die, but I will see the entire population gradully LOSE information and thus FUNCTION. Beneficial mutations are poss

                  • Re:Curses! (Score:5, Informative)

                    by Chris Burke (6130) on Thursday April 26, 2012 @12:23AM (#39803559) Homepage

                    If I have a billion self replicating programs, and randomly change the object code in all of them every second, they all won't suddenly die, but I will see the entire population gradully LOSE information and thus FUNCTION.

                    You should actually try this. I have. So have many others. What we've learned by doing it is that if you just randomly modify your billion programs with an external program and use this same program to do the copying (so none of the population of programs you're "evolving" can ever fail to reproduce), and nothing else then yeah you'll just get a big mess of programs that mostly don't work.

                    However if you constrain those that are allowed to be copied in some way, for example by running them through some tests to see if they have the desired functionality and only copying the best-working programs then randomly modify them, you prevent regression and select for enhancement. Iterating on this process, you'll find that you can achieve order and you can increase function. Dramatically so, and faster than you would think, too.

                    There's a whole field of computer science on the subject: genetic algorithms. They're only like biological evolution in principle, but it's the principle of random changes resulting in increased order that you have an issue with. Well, genetic algorithms provide a mathematical description of how that is not only perfectly possible, but a common, expected outcome.

                    We call the criterion we use to decide what solutions will be allowed to propagate the "fitness function", and it is the main thing that guides what the solution looks like, so defining it well is the major issue when you're a human trying to solve a specific problem. Even if you do a good job, you can still get solutions that are wildly outside what you assumed the solution should look like -- which is one of the strengths of genetic algorithms.

                    In nature, the "fitness function" is the same as the problem to be solved: Survive to reproduce. And what we see is the incredible number of ways that problem can be solved.

                  • You are ignoring the effect of natural selection. It is true that mutation, by itself, tends to result in individual organisms less-adapted to survive and reproduce in their environment then their predecessors. However, while the organisms with harmful mutations die out, the ones with beneficial mutations out-compete their peers. As a result, the beneficial gene is passed on to an increasing share of the population with each generation until it becomes dominant.

                    There is more to evolution than random mutatio

                  • by hajus (990255)

                    Yet there is a whole field of AI called genetic algorithms. It doesn't randomly change the object code, but the 'dna' of the algorithm used to solve a specific problem does change via mutations generation to generation. Most of the offspring generate mutations that are unhelpful and get discarded via natural selection, but the rare helpful mutations tend to stick around and combine together. It doesn't matter how often it occurs unless you are worried about how fast evolution needs to happen.

                    • by Chris Burke (6130)

                      Yet there is a whole field of AI called genetic algorithms. It doesn't randomly change the object code

                      Most of the time because the problem you're trying to solve can be parameterised more simply, but it's certainly possible to "evolve" object code, even object code that is responsible for its own replication.

                      I do like how the GP presented this concept of billions of self-replicating computer programs as if it was a hypothetical, but one that would obviously result in disorder.

                  • by ceoyoyo (59147)

                    You're absolutely correct. Except you've forgotten the next step: natural selection causes a quick end to the reduced function ones, and amplifies the increased function ones.

                    Mutation DOES increase "disorder" and decrease the mean fitness of a population, if left to itself. When paired with natural selection, the opposite happens - mutation introduces variation and natural selection selects only the fitter side of the distribution.

                    Funny how in your post you basically describe how to test the hypothesis wi

                  • Aaah, but your experiment has no natural selection.

                    When you add a selective element that actively culls the population of bad mutations the good ones not only win out but become dominant.
                    In fact this exact process is the mechanism we use to do evolve learning into neural networks. Your exact experiment - only with a selective pressure added.

                    It gets better we've used the process to evolve HARDWARE using programmable logic chips. The chips were initially programmed with random junk. Then a criteria was chosen

                  • by mpe (36238)
                    If I have a billion self replicating programs, and randomly change the object code in all of them every second, they all won't suddenly die, but I will see the entire population gradully LOSE information and thus FUNCTION. Beneficial mutations are possible, but will be far outweighed by the gradual increased disorder .

                    In terms of biological evolution loss can a beneficial mutation. e.g. animals which live in constantly dark caves losing sight, pigmentation, etc.
                  • Hi! I'm a genetic code: GTACATCTTCAGGCATAC

                    Hi! I'm also a genetic code: GTCCATCTTCACGCATAC

                    Which one of us is more "ordered" and why? Also, if one of is a mutation of the first, is the other one less orderly? If so, is the opposite also true?
      • Re:Curses! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by LordLucless (582312) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:19PM (#39802267)

        My guess is they'll just say "meh", and shrug their shoulders.

        Most creationists don't have a problem with "evolution" as an adaptive mechanism, just the particular application of evolution that posits that trillions of iterations of evolution moved life from primordial sludge to sentient life.

        The idea that the species existed in a "perfect" unchanged state from the point of creation until the present time was rejected as religious dogma even before Darwin.

        • by tlhIngan (30335)

          My guess is they'll just say "meh", and shrug their shoulders.

          Most creationists don't have a problem with "evolution" as an adaptive mechanism, just the particular application of evolution that posits that trillions of iterations of evolution moved life from primordial sludge to sentient life.

          The idea that the species existed in a "perfect" unchanged state from the point of creation until the present time was rejected as religious dogma even before Darwin.

          I will agree. One of my coworkers (who's a great wor

      • by Artifakt (700173)

        By standard Evolutionary theory, bacteria should actually have much less chance per unit of having a beneficial mutation than for more 'advanced' organisms. It's just they have a lot of both sheer numbers and fast reproductive cycles to make the individually unlikely collectively more likely.

        Details: any organism, from bacteria to blue whales, can be assumed to be pretty well adapted to its environment - wildly ill-adapted means dead. So small tweaks in genes are more likely to be beneficial than big change

      • by rwven (663186)

        My guess is that they will (rightfully) say that this isn't evolution, it's symbiosis. People need to rtfa, and not trust a poorly written intro paragraph.

        • by Rennt (582550)
          I'm not sure how you could read the article and miss that the bacteria's ability to process toxin was gained through an evolutionary process.
      • They have a stock response for these: "adaptation within a species is not evolution. Species can adapt and change, both from human choices (breeding) or natural pressures, but they cannot change into an entirely different species".

        I don't agree in the least, but I've heard the argument so I know how it goes.

      • by jittles (1613415)
        You're ridiculous. Creationists, in general, do not deny that evolution occurs in the world. They do not believe that men evolved from apes, or other less intelligent life forms. Granted, there are creationists that take it to the extreme and try to deny all evolution, but most of them just believe that humankind was created, not evolved.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      its all in the bible, if you would only learn to read it properly.

      (unless you are muslim, which in case, its all in the koran, if only you could learn to read it properly)

      (unless you are zoroastrian... which in case... hey , zoroastrian, thats a hell of a scrabble word...)

    • by rwven (663186)

      It's not evolution. It's symbiosis. Certain bacteria can eat the pesticides. The bugs ingest the bacteria which live in bugs gut. Bug eats pesticide. Bacteria eats pesticide, bug lives.

  • This is a big problem here in BC because of grow ops. Some off these spider mites are resistant to shit that will kill/fuck us up easily.

  • by theshowmecanuck (703852) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:49PM (#39802075) Journal
    There is a simple cause and solution to this. They aren't spraying enough pesticides and they need to spray more. Just ask the chemical companies and their congressional and parliamentary stooges. They'll back me up on this.
  • by ignavus (213578) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @07:59PM (#39802133)

    Yay! So now we can put those bacteria in farmers, and they won't get sick or die when they spray their farms.

  • by Dwedit (232252) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:29PM (#39802319) Homepage

    Great... Just what we need...
    Pesticides with Antibiotics mixed in there too. I for one welcome our new superbug overlords.

  • by rastoboy29 (807168) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:35PM (#39802349) Homepage
    This is why organic farming is not just for hippies and phobes.

    Personally, I think of it as a very Taoist way of solving these problems--instead of a frontal attack (insecticides) plant symbiotic plants nearby that ward off insects, and things like that.  Go with the flow...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Mashiki (184564)

      So, will you be the first to sign your own death and the death of 4 billion other people? Organic farming is unsustainable for our population levels.

      • by joocemann (1273720) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:02PM (#39802813)

        Smart people would make changes in farming and population control over the sae timeframe. Sadly, lots of ignorant people will die because they were born from ignorance and largely dont improve from the cycle.... and so 4+ BN will die, not that any sane human wouldnt be apalled by natures big push back.

        Oil resources finite? Check phosphorous peak estimates for a real scary reality check.

      • by netsavior (627338)
        not enough free nitrogen on earth to farm for its current population. "Organic" food is for privileged first worlders, and is not the answer to anything. It uses the most fertile land to produce the least robust crops for the smallest group of people. Awesome.
        • Bullshit.

          Have a look at terra preta, and biochar.

          Simple, inexpensive additions to poor quality soil which make it much more productive than one with chemical fertilizers..

          Green manure and compost are very inexpensive, most of what organic soil needs can be sourced locally, the only thing you might need to import is rock dust.

      • Where is your data?

        Also, what difference does it make if what you are saying is true, or if we simply cause super-pests to breed and eventually cause an Irish Potato style famine, due to monoculture farming, for example?

      • by Khashishi (775369)

        Then we're fucked. Because conventional farming is also unsustainable for our population levels.

  • Life will find a way (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @08:58PM (#39802463) Homepage Journal

    No matter whether you're dealing with antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, or natural predators, life will always evolve to survive.

    We all know this. The scientists. The chemists. The engineers. The pharmacorps. The pesticide and herbicide companies.

    Hell, Monsanto even gene-engineers such resistance into their tainted products.

    But the public doesn't want to accept the truth: we're all on borrowed time. All we're doing is leveraging short-term odds for short-term gain, at the price of long term dissolution. So the marketing experts and technology pundits tell them what they want to hear: that we can win the fight in the long term.

    We can't, and we won't. Eventually every single antibiotic, pesticide, and herbicide we have will be useless, and the new generations of such products will be so lethal that we won't be able to use them because they're also poisonous to humans.

    And then the shit is really gonna hit the fan, big time.

    • We can't, and we won't. Eventually every single antibiotic, pesticide, and herbicide we have will be useless, and the new generations of such products will be so lethal that we won't be able to use them because they're also poisonous to humans.

      I'm not sure this is true. It seems that each generation of pesticide is safer, and more targeted than the previous generation. The earlier pesticides, like DDT are much worse than later ones, like paldoxins. Your scenario COULD happen, I don't claim to predict the future, but there is more than one possibility.

      And our knowledge of biology is growing and such an incredible pace, it wouldn't be surprising if we get better and better pesticides in the future, at an increasing pace. Once computers are more

    • by joocemann (1273720) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:10PM (#39802867)

      Microbiologists ma disagree about the antibiotic resistance cold war component of your point. They often assert that when resistance is evolved against one mode of action, it is devolved from a previous mode.... this is true in bacteria, whereby removing antibiotics from media can generate a dominant species that is absent of resistance in 30 generations (1 to 2 days). This is because without the pressure, the small functional advantage of lacking a useless resistance gene lets the nonresistant mutant outpace its resistant ancestor in 30 doublings.

      I am a firm believer in working *with* nature than against it. The future looks dreary...

  • This isn't surprising to me. Just like dosing animals with antibodies and using sterilization products everywhere which creates resistance to said chemicals. As Ian Malcolm said "Life finds a way."
  • Insects Develop Pesticide Resistance Through Symbiosis With Gut Flora

    "Gut Flora" was the name of my ska-core band when I was in college. We were originally "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" but the lead singer left the band and he owned the name, Asshole.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      "Gut Flora" was the name of my ska-core band when I was in college. We were originally "Irritable Bowel Syndrome" but the lead singer left the band and he owned the name, Asshole.

      No, I own the name Asshole.

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