The genome of the water strider Gerris buenoi reveals expansions of gene repertoires associated with adaptations to life on the water
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Having conquered water surfaces worldwide, the semi-aquatic bugs occupy ponds, streams, lakes, mangroves, and even open oceans. The diversity of this group has inspired a range of scientific studies from ecology and evolution to developmental genetics and hydrodynamics of fluid locomotion. However, the lack of a representative water strider genome hinders our ability to more thoroughly investigate the molecular mechanisms underlying the processes of adaptation and diversification within this group. Here we report the sequencing and manual annotation of the Gerris buenoi (G. buenoi) genome; the first water strider genome to be sequenced thus far. The size of the G. buenoi genome is approximately 1,000 Mb, and this sequencing effort has recovered 20,949 predicted protein-coding genes. Manual annotation uncovered a number of local (tandem and proximal) gene duplications and expansions of gene families known for their importance in a variety of processes associated with morphological and physiological adaptations to a water surface lifestyle. These expansions may affect key processes associated with growth, vision, desiccation resistance, detoxification, olfaction and epigenetic regulation. Strikingly, the G. buenoi genome contains three insulin receptors, suggesting key changes in the rewiring and function of the insulin pathway. Other genomic changes affecting with opsin genes may be associated with wavelength sensitivity shifts in opsins, which is likely to be key in facilitating specific adaptations in vision for diverse water habitats. Our findings suggest that local gene duplications might have played an important role during the evolution of water striders. Along with these findings, the sequencing of the G. buenoi genome now provides us the opportunity to pursue exciting research opportunities to further understand the genomic underpinnings of traits associated with the extreme body plan and life history of water striders.