University of Leicester
Genomic adaptations to aquatic and aerial life in mayflies.pdf (5.32 MB)

Genomic adaptations to aquatic and aerial life in mayflies and the origin of insect wings

Download (5.32 MB)
journal contribution
posted on 2021-07-05, 11:27 authored by Isabel Almudi, Joel Vizueta, Christopher DR Wyatt, Alex de Mendoza, Ferdinand Marletaz, Panos N Firbas, Roberto Feuda, Giulio Masiero, Patricia Medina, Ana Alcaina-Caro, Fernando Cruz, Jessica Gomez-Garrido, Marta Gut, Tyler S Alioto, Carlos Vargas-Chavez, Kristofer Davie, Bernhard Misof, Josefa Gonzalez, Stein Aerts, Ryan Lister, Jordi Paps, Julio Rozas, Alejandro Sanchez-Gracia, Manuel Irimia, Ignacio Maeso, Fernando Casares
The evolution of winged insects revolutionized terrestrial ecosystems and led to the largest animal radiation on Earth. However, we still have an incomplete picture of the genomic changes that underlay this diversification. Mayflies, as one of the sister groups of all other winged insects, are key to understanding this radiation. Here, we describe the genome of the mayfly Cloeon dipterum and its gene expression throughout its aquatic and aerial life cycle and specific organs. We discover an expansion of odorant-binding-protein genes, some expressed specifically in breathing gills of aquatic nymphs, suggesting a novel sensory role for this organ. In contrast, flying adults use an enlarged opsin set in a sexually dimorphic manner, with some expressed only in males. Finally, we identify a set of wing-associated genes deeply conserved in the pterygote insects and find transcriptomic similarities between gills and wings, suggesting a common genetic program. Globally, this comprehensive genomic and transcriptomic study uncovers the genetic basis of key evolutionary adaptations in mayflies and winged insects.


This project was mainly funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Grant Agreement 657732 to I.A., Grant BFU2015-66040-P to F.Ca., institutional Grant MDM-2016-0687 (MINECO, Spain). Additional funding was provided by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (ERC-StG-LS2-637591 to M.I.), the Spanish Ministerio de Ciencia (BFU2017-89201-P to M.I., RYC-2016-20089 and PGC2018-099392-A-I00 to I.M.).



Nat Commun 11, 2631 (2020)

Author affiliation

Department of Genetics and Genome Biology


  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

Nature Communications




Nature Research





Acceptance date


Copyright date


Available date


Spatial coverage