The insect with tiniest genome found in Antarctica

Researchers are surprised after sequencing the genome of the tiniest insect, Antarctic Midge. It is the only native insect surviving in this polar region.

Antarctic midge is a simple insect: no wings, a slender black body, and an adult life span of not more much than a week. The bug has just 99 million base pairs of nucleotides, which is even smaller than the body louse which contains about 105 million base pairs of the nucleotides. However this doesn’t indicate the midge being devoid of functional genes. It contains 13,500 of them.

The scientific notation of the insect is Belgica Antarctica. It is considered to be an interesting creature in many ways. It lives most of its life in a larval form. Adult phase is very often to be observed. As per Joanna Kelley of Washington State University genomics researchers, it remain in frozen form to endure the harsh environment .It is the only true insect living in this continent. It is 0.23 inches long. It actually qualifies as the largest terrestrial animal in Antarctica, according to Miami University of Ohio’s Laboratory for Ecophysiological Cryobiology. All other fauna in the continent are either mites or they live in seawater.

The insect is capable of producing heat shock proteins, continuously in larval stage. The larval stage is segregated into four parts, and during each stage the insect tend to lose half of it body weight.

“It has really taken the genome down to the bare bones and stripped it to a smaller size than was previously thought possible”, said David Denlinger, one of the researchers in the study. “It will be interesting to know if other extremophile ticks, mites and other organisms that live in Antarctica also have really small genomes or if this is unique to the midge. We don’t know that yet”.

The midge contains special protein known as aquaporin which helps in transportation of water and minerals in the climatic conditions the insect is surrounded by. The prime key of surviving that temperature is to endure the low levels of dehydration.

Scientists are now in the way to find that are there other insects resembling the midges genome or it is the most unique creature.
The findings were published by Nature Communications.