Scientists have finally sequenced the genome of the tobacco hornworm. This caterpillar species is often used by researchers to study insect biology in general. They use it as a kind of model of biology for all insects. The project was a huge collaborative effort involving researchers from all over the world, and serves as a huge milestone in the study of insect biology.
The tobacco hornworm is a major garden pest. These pests can cause serious destruction, eating the leaves primarily of tomato plants, but also munching on pepper, potato, and eggplant plants. Most crops in this plant family produce chemicals like nicotine that ward off most insect pests. But the tobacco hornworm stands as the exception to the rule, making it an even more interesting insect for scientists to study.
Not only will the sequencing of this genome lead to better research on molecular biology, physiology, and neurobiology of insects, but it will help in the development of new and more effective pest control methods.
How could the study of one insect such as the tobacco hornworm help scientists understand another insect species?