Water Wisdom of Beetles: Exploring Unique Osmoregulatory Strategies as Linchpins of Evolution

Name of applicant

Kenneth Veland Halberg


Associate Professor


University of Copenhagen


DKK 4,995,397



Type of grant

Semper Ardens: Accelerate


Beetles are the most species-rich animal group on earth, and colonize the widest possible range of habitats on the planet. Their evolutionary success is intimately linked with their ability to maintain water balance, as they posses powerful osmoregulatory organs that are novel among the insects. However, our knowledge on their unique osmoregulatory organs form and function is highly limited.


The functional innovations that have triggered the expansion of beetles into new environments, and to become devastating agricultural pests worldwide are unknown. This knowledge is important, not only because it can provide lessons on how animals adapt to environmental stress, such as climate change, but also because it can promote development of novel and more specific insect pest control agents.


By leveraging recent advances in single-cell transcriptomics, I will create single-cell atlases of beetle osmoregulatory organs to identify the genetic basis of their unique osmoregulatory organs. Using a range of physiological assays I will characterize the function of those genes to illuminate the physiological mechanisms that have enabled beetles to become the most diverse group on the planet.

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