The Colorado potato beetle is one of the most challenging agricultural pests to manage. It has shown a spectacular ability to adapt to a variety of solanaceaeous plants and variable climates during its global invasion, and, notably, to rapidly evolve insecticide resistance. To examine evidence of rapid evolutionary change, and to understand the genetic basis of herbivory and insecticide resistance, we tested for structural and functional genomic changes relative to other arthropod species using genome sequencing, transcriptomics, and community annotation. Two factors that might facilitate rapid evolutionary change include transposable elements, which comprise at least 17% of the genome and are rapidly evolving compared to other Coleoptera, and high levels of nucleotide diversity in rapidly growing pest populations. Adaptations to plant feeding are evident in gene expansions and differential expression of digestive enzymes in gut tissues, as well as expansions of gustatory receptors for bitter tasting. Surprisingly, the suite of genes involved in insecticide resistance is similar to other beetles. Finally, duplications in the RNAi pathway might explain why Leptinotarsa decemlineata has high sensitivity to dsRNA. The L. decemlineata genome provides opportunities to investigate a broad range of phenotypes and to develop sustainable methods to control this widely successful pest.
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