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Keywords:

  • Australian entomology research;
  • insect molecular biology;
  • molecular entomology

Abstract

One of the biggest advances in biological research has undoubtedly been the development of our capacity to investigate individual phenotypes, species biology and multi-species interactions at the molecular level. This has provided the ability to understand the detailed mechanisms that regulate biological processes and, in many cases, to manipulate them or use them to our advantage. In this Overview we define ‘insect molecular biology’ as the study of gene/protein expression and molecular function and contrast it with ‘traditional entomology’ and ‘comparative molecular entomology’. Obtaining the genomes of various insect species has provided significant advances in our ability to quickly isolate important genes. Study of the proteins they produce is important as they are functionally extremely diverse and are the basis for biological differences in extant species. Australian researchers have contributed significantly to our knowledge of insect molecular biology. Functional insect molecular biology studies undertaken in Australia are summarised, concentrating on the last 15 years, during which time insect molecular research has accelerated, largely due to obtaining key insect genomes and corresponding advances in molecular technologies. Currently, however, in Australia there is minimal collaboration between insect molecular biologists and researchers working in traditional or comparative molecular biology. We propose that an increase in these types of collaborations would benefit the broad field of entomology in Australia and increase the impact of Australian entomology globally.