Along rivers and streams around the world, mayflies are a rite of spring. The mosquito-size insects lead double lives, with the young thriving in water and the adults emerging by the millions around June for just a few hours to mate and quickly die. There can be so many that they clog traffic, make roads slick, and even create a smelly mess.
Now, by sequencing the genome of one remarkable mayfly species—whose males have a second set of skyward-pointing eyes—researchers have learned how aquatic young transform into airborne adults. They’ve also discovered new clues about how all insects evolved to fly in the first place.
The amount of information gleaned from the study is impressive, says Craig Macadam, an entomologist at the U.K.-based nonprofit insect conservation organization Buglife. “It really shows that once we know the genetic makeup of a species, we can start to work out a huge amount about [it].”
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