Of 18 racehorses that ran in the Japanese Derby this year, seven, including the winner, were children of Deep Impact, a renowned champion and one of the nation's best-known sires. The fine performances of Deep Impact's offspring underscore the power of pedigree. Thoroughbred breeding, begun three centuries ago in pursuit of speed, is said to have become an art form.
Miniature dogs are among many animals that have undergone selective breeding for human convenience. And now, we have ladybugs that don't fly. Their job is to stay put and eat aphids that infest vegetables--bad news for those swarming pests.
Using a pest's natural enemy as a "biotic pesticide" is not a new concept. But it works only if the "good bug" stays on the crops the "bad bug" feeds on. That's why it was necessary to ensure that the ladybugs didn't fly away.
From among "namitento" Japanese ladybugs, scientists, including those at the research institute in Fukuyama, Hiroshima Prefecture, of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization, selected bugs that were poor fliers and mated them. About 30 generations later, all were flightless. After they were released on trial in fields and greenhouses, the scientists found that aphids were breeding less.
Their flightlessness is passed down from generation to generation. These Japanese ladybug beetle grubs are voracious eaters. If they become "live-in farmhands," they could do tremendous service to vegetable farmers. And since they move around very little throughout their lives, their impact on the ecosystem is said to be minimal. They are a godsend for farmers, and definitely a curse for aphids.
But animals are tough survivors that, through evolution, can adapt to their changing environment. Aphids, for instance, are "smart" enough to use ants as bodyguards. As they keep being eaten by their natural enemy that has become much more formidable, who knows, they may grow wings some day.
--The Asahi Shimbun, June 29
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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