Imagine a nest of red-eyed wasps descending onto you.
(Photo : Photo by Dean Purcell/Getty Images)
Wasps are already scary enough, but scientists from the University of California Riverside created a new breed of mutant wasps featuring terrifying red eyes.
According to a report from UC Riverside, the team introduced the new strain of wasps to prove that the CRISPR gene-slicing technology can be applied to the parisitic jewel wasps. With the success of this project, the scientists have a new method of studying the biology of the wasp including how males are able to turn all their progeny into males.
The way the males are able to produce only male offspring is an intriguing mystery that scientists are looking forward to cracking. Assistant professor of entomology Omar Akbari explained, «To understand that, we need to pursue their PSR (paternal sex ratio) chromosomes, perhaps by mutating regions of the PSR chromosome to determine which genes are essential for its functionality.»
It’s the first time the new CRISPR technology has been used in such a tiny organism that has eggs estimated to be about a quarter the size of a grain of rice. Utmost precision with a very small needle and a microscope is necessary to pull a small egg out of a bigger egg, inject it with the materials to mutate its DNA and then put it back in the large egg.
For the most recent study, Akbari and the team targeted the genes controlling the wasps’ eyes.
«We wanted to target a gene that would be obvious, and we knew from previous studies that if the gene for eye pigmentation was knocked out, they would have red eyes, so this seemed like a good target for gene disruption,» Akbari explained. «Big beautiful red eyes are something you won’t miss.»
The practical implications of understanding wasps and various insects would also be universally beneficial as it can lead to figuring out a way to control species that are known to destroy crops or spread diseases such as malaria.
In the meantime, enjoy the presence of red-eyed mutant wasps somewhere out there in the world. This mutant has heritable traits, so the demon-like color of their eyes will be inherited by their offspring.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports .