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Biotech Science

Wasps Have Injected New Genes Into Butterflies 103

sciencehabit writes: If you're a caterpillar, you do not want to meet a parasitic wasp. The winged insect will inject you full of eggs, which will grow inside your body, develop into larvae, and hatch from your corpse. But a new study reveals that wasps have given caterpillars something beneficial during these attacks as well: pieces of viral DNA that become part of the caterpillar genome, protecting them against an entirely different lethal virus. In essence, the wasps have turned caterpillars into genetically modified organisms.
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Wasps Have Injected New Genes Into Butterflies

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  • by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:12AM (#50547205) Homepage Journal

    Chaos and doom! Watch out for the butterfly effect.

    • Don't be daft , we#'re all controlled by the WASPs
      they inject the butterfly's with mutant DNA so they can fap in the forest and cause hurricanes

    • Those wasps are obviously right wingers trying to live for free on the backs of others.

  • What are you talking about? genetically modified stuff should be labelled.

    Are you suggesting that practically anything organic has been genetically modified "naturally"?! but GMO, artificial, organic, evolution, biology, god, atheists /mind_blown
    • You are so busy setting up your straw man that you don't even recognize that there is nothing natural about being stung by a parasitic wasp and having forcefully modified one's DNA. It is as artificial as it gets.

      I mean, if we follow your path of thought to its logical conclusion then having me beating you up with a club would be having you evolved broken bones naturally.

      • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

        Artificial means man-made, so it is not artificial.

        It's certainly not developing as the caterpillar "intends", that's for sure.

        • http://www.merriam-webster.com... [merriam-webster.com]

          "not natural or real : made, produced, or done to seem like something natural"

          Not natural indeed.

          • by cfalcon ( 779563 )

            Errr... not sure where you are going with that. The top definition is man-made, because that's what it means. And certainly, nothing about the wasp is non-natural. A wasp stabbing a caterpillar is neither artificial nor non-natural nor unreal.

            Also, what is that gray box? The one you copy pasted that from? It's not the definition of the word (which you imply by your copy past). The top definition according to merriam-webster is:

            humanly contrived often on a natural model : man-made

            If I type in

            • "man-made" is an overtly narrow definition, because by that definition machine-made stuff is suddenly not artificial anymore. Thus it makes more sense to use the actual etymological root of this word ("made by art or skill").

              As for the wasp, the wasp itself is natural, the caterpillar as well. The genetic modification performed by the wasp is anything but. It introduces completely new treats and would have created a new species if not the fact that the caterpillars are doomed after the sting anyway.

      • What? That's like saying Venus fly traps, bombardier beetles, Agrobacterium, fireflies, and viruses are not natural. I assure you, they are. Nature does some pretty strange things.

    • Re:Oh no no no! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 18, 2015 @04:14AM (#50547411)

      You geeks are so short-sighted.

      Look, there ain't anything inherently bad about GMO. It's just the combination of GMO with incredibly powerful, greedy-without-bounds, out of control corporations what is possibly going to eliminate us from this planet (cockroaches will survive, mind you).

      The day Monsanto and the likes disappear I'll reconsider my position on GMO.

      Comprende?

      • Not quite. There is also the added problem with Monsanto et al. that due to their technological prowess, they might be capable of introducing entirely artificial genetic modifications that prove to be disastrous in the wild, but would not really have been possible via natural means like the one observed with the wasps and caterpillars.

        A good analogy would be that nuclear fission is fairly harmless under normal circumstances: there are plenty of radioactive isotopes around in nature in trace amounts, and in

      • Re:Oh no no no! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ChromeAeonium ( 1026952 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @05:50AM (#50547647)

        It's just the combination of GMO with incredibly powerful, greedy-without-bounds, out of control corporations what is possibly going to eliminate us from this planet

        Well, that's not an overly dramatic exaggerated misrepresentation at all.

        The day Monsanto and the likes disappear I'll reconsider my position on GMO.

        That's absurd. That's like saying cooked food is bad because you don't like McDonalds. Even if we assume that all the urban legends about Monsanto are true, and that for some strange reason they really are these Saturday morning cartoon super villains that so many people take them for, are you really going to oppose things like the Rainbow papaya (university made, by the University of Hawai'i & Cornell University), Golden Rice (NGO made, by the International Rice Research Institute), Bt eggplant (government made, by Bangladesh), ect. on the basis that someone else is doing something wrong with the same technology?

        • are you really going to oppose things like the Rainbow papaya (university made, by the University of Hawai'i & Cornell University), Golden Rice (NGO made, by the International Rice Research Institute), Bt eggplant (government made, by Bangladesh), ect. on the basis that someone else is doing something wrong with the same technology?

          I think the concern here is that, even with the best of intentions and with GMO foods that in the short term provide great benefits, we still can't be sure we're not missing something crucial. Potential problems from GMO foods, (such as possibly bad genetic modifications showing up in the human genome as a result of food genes that likely wouldn't have occurrred outside of a laboratory), might not show up for years, or even a generation or two. And they might even not be immediately traceable to GMO foods.

          T

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Many environmentalists, anti-GMO people, organic food proponents, etc., are just anti-corporate advocates behind a thin veil. By far not all, as there are plenty of people in those groups who are there for the actual cause. But I've found it annoying and counterproductive with people hiding one cause behind another, even if I completely agree with both causes, because it results in so much BS.

      • What's your position on Bayer and BASF?
      • It's just the combination of GMO with incredibly powerful, greedy-without-bounds, out of control corporations what [sic] is possibly going to eliminate us from this planet

        So it's only corporations that can do evil with GMOs? A privately held company couldn't? An individual? A government?

        Grow up.

    • The difference is that people trust natural selection to weed out the mistakes. They don't trust human intelligence to find all the possible problems. So they think of a human messing around as a bigger risk than natural processes messing around. Because some people think everything in nature can be trusted and is 100% safe...
    • Re:Oh no no no! (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Sique ( 173459 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @05:47AM (#50547637) Homepage
      Several issues with this stance:

      Horizontal gene transfer has been known for a long time, moreso, the mechanics of transfering a gene via retroviral DNA- or RNA-fragments into a cell came first, and only then there was the idea, that we could transfer arbitrary genes via the same mechanism. Thus GMO is a result of discovering the mechanism of horizontal gene transfer.

      If horizontal gene transfer happens, if affects only a single individuum, the one getting hit with the retrovirus carring the new DNA and thus acting as gene shuttle. In the most cases, the DNA transfer will not affect the offspring, as the gonades aren't hit by the virus, and thus the genetic modification will die with the individuum. Sometimes, the DNA transfer affects the gonades and either the individuum will become completely infertile, or it will not have viable offspring. Thus the gene transfer dies with the next generation. Only if the DNA proves to be advantageous for the individuum and its offspring, it will spread within the population, and it will take hundreds of generations until it has affected the whole population.

      This is different from GMO, where millions of individua at the same time with the same genetic modification will be released at once, and we don't have hundreds of generations to watch the effects to the species itself and to its environment and biotopes.

      As a side note: What if two patented crops from different companies crossbreed and carry both patented genes? Which company then has the right to sue the other for patent violation?

    • No, no , no, this is natural transgenics, and that makes things fine, because evolution just smooths things out like that, like it did with the appendix. That was the reaction to natural transgenes in sweet potatoes [sciencedaily.com] anyway You joke this might have an impact on the GMO controversy. It won't. Horizontal gene transfer has been known to exist for a long time; amazing what a little hand waving, armchair speculation, and goalpost moving can do to buffer an ideology.

      But this doesn't really come as much of a su

  • by wonkey_monkey ( 2592601 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @03:42AM (#50547301) Homepage

    If you're a caterpillar

    If you're not sure whether any of your readers might be caterpillars, you probably shouldn't be in publishing.

  • It stings with a patented formula.

  • by dwywit ( 1109409 ) on Friday September 18, 2015 @05:04AM (#50547561)

    Don't the caterpillars *DIE* when the wasp eggs hatch?

    This seems to imply that not only do at least some of the stung caterpillars live through the "birth" of their guests/parasites, they live long enough to metamorphose, and then reproduce.

    • the caterpillars may may not necessarily kill their hosts immediately after hatching, I'm not sure about this particular species, but there are examples of parasites that live and grow for quite a while within their insect hosts before killing them. See: horsehair worms.

      Besides, I suspect that this viral DNA has more to do with keeping the insect alive _until_ the eggs hatch...
  • Darwin was moving away from theistic explanations of natural world for quite sometime. But despite rejecting Biblical explanations of natural sciences, he still believed on God. One of the things that pushed him towards full fledged atheism was the observation that these wasps would lay eggs and paralyze the caterpillars. So that the caterpillars do not die and decay, they stay alive to provide food for the hatched wasp larvae. The caterpillars being eaten alive revolted him and he could not believe a merci
    • Darwin was moving away from theistic explanations of natural world for quite sometime. But despite rejecting Biblical explanations of natural sciences, he still believed on God. One of the things that pushed him towards full fledged atheism was the observation that these wasps would lay eggs and paralyze the caterpillars. So that the caterpillars do not die and decay, they stay alive to provide food for the hatched wasp larvae. The caterpillars being eaten alive revolted him and he could not believe a merciful God would that to His creatures. Death of his 10 year old daughter also pushed him away from God. But still, out of deference to his wife he desisted publishing the Origin of species, till his hand was forced by Wallace.

      And no, there was no deathbed conversion.

      So had he never wondered why a merciful God would let human beings die in childbirth, or of cancer or whatever?

Marvelous! The super-user's going to boot me! What a finely tuned response to the situation!

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