Bugs beat the distance barrier

WHO says long distance relationships don’t work?

One La Trobe University student has proved that theory wrong through a research project he undertook for the summer through the Murray-Darling Freshwater Research Centre.

James Anderson investigated beetle species from the Bogong High Plains and Mount Buffalo.

It was previously thought the types could not interbreed because of the distance that separated them.

But Mr Anderson’s research of DNA data has discovered the two species have in fact been interbreeding.

“The species don’t fly but there’s evidence to say they’ve been mating,” he said.

“We don’t know how it’s happening so future research will need to be undertaken to understand how these beetles are managing to interbreed.”

Mr Anderson’s work has also been based on using DNA techniques to identify the beetles without using their physical characteristics.

By doing this he has discovered 65 new DNA sequences of freshwater beetles that have been added the International Barcode of Life Database, an online library listing the DNA structure of different species.

Mr Anderson undertook the summer cadetship program with five others.

They all had separate projects which included seed viability, water bugs, fish and organic matter.

Program participant William Valo looked at how carbon impacted waterways.

“The primary goal of that is to stop fish kill,” he said.

“Floods are things that trigger an increase of carbon in the waterways, especially in the Murray.

“High temperatures also play a part.

“We haven’t yet got the final answer but we are at the forefront of knowledge.”

Though not all the participants reached a conclusion, their work will impact the way future research is done.

Mr Valo said the 10-week long research projects prepared them for what was beyond university.

“It’s completely different from the classroom,” he said.

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