Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Promiscuous queen bees maintain genetic diversity

Date:
April 16, 2012
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
By mating with nearly 100 males, queen bees on isolated islands avoid inbreeding and keep colonies healthy. New research has focused on giant honey bee colonies on Hainan Island, off the coast of China. Since these bees have long been separated from their continental cousins, it was thought that the island bees would be prime candidates for inbreeding as well as having very different genes.

Zachary Huang, MSU entomologist, demonstrated how queen bees on isolated islands keep colonies healthy.
Credit: Photo courtesy of Zachary Huang

By mating with nearly 100 males, queen bees on isolated islands avoid inbreeding and keep colonies healthy. The results, published in the current issue of PLoS ONE, focused on giant honey bee colonies on Hainan Island, off the coast of China. Since these bees have long been separated from their continental cousins, it was thought that the island bees would be prime candidates for inbreeding as well as having very different genes, said Zachary Huang, Michigan State University entomologist.

"We believed that the island bees would show evidence of the founder effect, or random genetic changes in an isolated population, on a unique sex determination gene from the mainland bees," he said. "At first we were surprised when we couldn't document this effect. Looking at it further, I asked myself, 'Why didn't I think of this before?'"

When compared to bees, humans have a rather simplistic sex-determination process. In females, the two sex-determination chromosomes are the same, and in males the two chromosomes are different. With bees, however, the combinations of complementary sex determination genes, or CSDs, determine the sex and the societal role of the bees.

One particular gene can have alleles -- the "flavor" of genes. In humans, they dictate hair and eye color. In bees, though, they are responsible for creating females (worker bees), fertile males (that mate with the queen) or infertile males (diploid males which serve no purpose).

The voila moment came once Huang estimated the bees' mating habits and the potential of CSD allele combinations. That's when he understood why he couldn't confirm the founder effect. Keeping the CSD mix diverse is one of the keys to maintaining a healthy hive, he said.

The island queens carry around 40 CSD alleles. Since they mate with nearly 100 males -- each also harboring around 40 alleles -- the high number of healthy genetic combinations keeps the gene pool diverse. By using natural selection to create healthy offspring, the bees perpetuate a healthy colony.

In comparison, if the island bees adopted the breeding habits of fire ants, with queens mating with a single male, inbreeding could wreck the off-shore claves or distinct populations of bees. The devastating change would reduce the fitness of the hive, decreasing the female workforce, as well as lowering the number of mating males.

What would be left would be an unhealthy hive with higher numbers of diploid or infertile males, with the same alleles, Huang said.

By extending his research beyond Hainan Island, Huang found evidence that showed that the island wasn't an isolated case.

"We failed to find any clustering of the bees' CSD alleles according to their geographical origin; the Hainan and mainland bees did not form separate clades," said Huang, whose research is supported by MSU AgBioResearch. "Previously published CSD sequences also failed to show any unique clade-forming in the Philippines and Malaysia."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Zhi Yong Liu, Zi Long Wang, Wei Yu Yan, Xiao Bo Wu, Zhi Jiang Zeng, Zachary Y. Huang. The Sex Determination Gene Shows No Founder Effect in the Giant Honey Bee, Apis dorsata. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (4): e34436 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0034436

Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Promiscuous queen bees maintain genetic diversity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120416150403.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2012, April 16). Promiscuous queen bees maintain genetic diversity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120416150403.htm
Michigan State University. "Promiscuous queen bees maintain genetic diversity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120416150403.htm (accessed September 30, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
California University Designs Sustainable Winery

California University Designs Sustainable Winery

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) Amid California's worst drought in decades, scientists at UC Davis design a sustainable winery that includes a water recycling system. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

Argentina Worries Over Decline of Soybean Prices

AFP (Sep. 27, 2014) The drop in price of soy on the international market is a cause for concern in Argentina, as soybean exports are a major source of income for Latin America's third largest economy. Duration: 01:10 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Mama Bear, Cubs Hang out in California Backyard

Reuters - US Online Video (Sep. 27, 2014) A mama bear and her two cubs climb trees, wrestle and take naps in the backyard of a Monrovia, California home. Vanessa Johnston reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins