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New Hornet Genomes Highlight Potential Adaptations

An international research team reporting in Scientific Reports presents findings from a genome sequencing study of two hornet species, the European hornet, Vespa crabro, and the yellow-legged Asian hornet, V. velutina, which were analyzed alongside available sequences for the northern giant hornet, V. mandarinia. The researchers put together a draft genome assembly for V. crabro with Illumina short-read sequences, while using Pacific Biosciences long-read sequencing, Hi-C chromatin interaction profiles to assemble the V. velutina hornet genome, bringing in RNA sequence data spanning several developmental stages, hornet castes, and tissue types to annotate the genomes and to find differentially expressed brain genes between hornet castes. When they compared the genomes to one another and to a publicly available genome assembly for V. mandarinia, the authors saw the most widespread signs of selection on genes in the V. crabro hornet, though signs of reproduction-related selection were common across the species. Given these and other findings, "[t]his report provides a springboard for advancing our understanding of the evolution and ecology of hornets," they write, "and opens up opportunities for using molecular methods in the future management of both native and invasive populations of these overlooked insects."