Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Hybrid Swarm in Global Mega-Pest

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CSIRO scientists have confirmed the hybridisation of two of the world's major pest species, into a new and improved mega-pest.

One of the pests, the cotton bollworm, is widespread in Africa, Asia and Europe and causes damage to over 100 crops, including corn, cotton, tomato and soybean.

The damage and controlling the pest costs billions of dollars a year.

It is extremely mobile and has developed resistance to all pesticides used against it.

The other pest, the corn earworm, is a native of the Americas and has comparatively limited resistance and host range.

However, the combination of the two, in a novel hybrid with unlimited geographical boundaries is cause for major concern.

The CSIRO researchers in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA provides clear evidence of the hybridisation of the two moths in Brazil.

"A hybrid such as this could go completely undetected should it invade another country," Research Director leading CSIRO's Biosecurity Risk Evaluation and Preparedness Program Dr Paul De Barro said.

"It is critical that we look beyond our own backyard to help fortify Australia's defense and response to biosecurity threats.

"As Australia's national science agency, we are constantly looking for new ways to protect the nation and technology like genome sequencing...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.