Why do silkworms feed on mulberry leaves?
CGTN

Domesticated silkworms are the foundation of sericulture. Silkworms predominately feed on mulberry leaves, but the genetic basis for its feeding preference is unknown.

Silkworms and green leaves /VCG Photo

Silkworms and green leaves /VCG Photo

Scientists from the Center for Excellence in Molecular Plant Sciences/Institute of Plant Physiology and Ecology, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, have conducted gene analyses and found that the gene GR66 is a major factor affecting the feeding preference of the silkworm. A gene mutation in silkworms can change their eating habits.

Silkworms mainly feed on mulberry leaves /VCG Photo

Silkworms mainly feed on mulberry leaves /VCG Photo

Results showed that GR66 mutant larvae acquired new feeding activity, exhibiting the ability to feed on a number of plant species in addition to mulberry leaves, including fresh fruits and grain seeds.

/VCG Photo

/VCG Photo

According to Tan Anjiang, one of the researchers, mulberry leaves have been used as the only food source for mass rearing of silkworm for thousands of years, however, a limited supply of mulberry leaves has created a bottleneck in the sericulture industry.

/VCG Photo

/VCG Photo

The research provides a promising approach for developing alternative food sources for the mass rearing of silkworms, Tan said.

"The research will also provide insights into the mechanisms underlying insect feeding behavior and insect-plant interactions, facilitating the development of novel strategies for pest management," Tan added.

The research was published in the journal PLOS Biology.

The silkworm is the larva of the Bombyx mori moth. They were native to northern China and no longer found in the wild. 

(Top image via VCG)

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Source(s): Xinhua News Agency