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8th November 2023 (14 Topics)

Where do domesticated silkworm cocoons get their wild colours from?

Context –

Domestication of Silkworms has affected the species in intricate ways.

Silk Production and Types

  • History of Domestication: Silk, extracted from the cocoons of the Bombyx mori silk moth, finds its roots in Chinese domestication over 5,000 years ago.
  • Varied Colours and Textures: Mulberry leaves sustain the silkworms, with different species like muga, tasar, and eri silks harvested from other moth species, yielding varying silk textures and colors.
  • Wild Silk Production: Wild silks amount to about 30% of India's silk production, contrasting the finer, longer threads of mulberry silks.

Genetic Variations and Pigment Diversity

  • Reason for diversity: The diversity in silk coloration originates from mutations affecting the absorption and transportation of pigments like carotenoids and flavonoids from mulberry leaves.
  • Method for production of colored Cocoons: Through artificial selection, the silkworms produce differently colored cocoons, forming a palette of hues from yellow-red to deep green or white.
  • Significance of Genes: Understanding the genetic basis of these mutations, researchers have identified the significance of genes in pigment production.

Insights and Genetic Studies

  • Research Insights: Researchers have examined genes like apontic-like, observing differences in the production of melanin pigment when mutated.
  • Role of Gene Regulation: Such studies have shed light on gene regulation and expression, exploring the intricate mechanisms behind the development of colored silks.
  • Better Avenues: These findings have opened avenues for a genetic exploration into the domestication process, potentially extending to similar studies in other domesticated species like rice, mangoes, and dogs in the future.
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