World's most common bee originated 7 million years ago in Asia

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A familial investigation suggests the world’s astir communal taxon of honeybee, the occidental honeybee, archetypal appeared successful occidental Asia astir 7 cardinal years agone and past dispersed into Africa and Europe

Life 3 December 2021

By Carissa Wong

Honey bee workers

Honey bee workers (Apis mellifera)

Kim Taylor /

Genomic investigation has revealed that the occidental honeybee – which lives crossed Europe, Africa and Asia – archetypal evolved successful occidental Asia. Understanding the improvement of honeybees tin assistance america support these crucial pollinators.

Ancestral honeybees are thought to person originated successful south-east Asia, but whether the occidental honeybee taxon (Apis mellifera) evolved from an ancestral honeybee successful Asia oregon aft its ancestor had dispersed to Africa is wide debated.

Kathleen Dogantzis astatine York University successful Canada and her colleagues person present resolved this question by analysing the genomes of 251 occidental honeybees, covering 18 subspecies collected from crossed Europe, Africa and Asia.

The squad recovered that the occidental honeybee taxon archetypal evolved successful occidental Asia, earlier spreading into Europe and Africa, wherever antithetic subspecies formed done earthy selection. The cardinal to the researchers’ attack was to see galore samples from Africa and Asia.

“We focused connected getting samples from Africa and Asia, due to the fact that they’re mostly under-represented [in studies of honeybee origins],” says Dogantzis.

By comparing however akin the bee genomes were to each other, the squad estimated that the A. mellifera ancestor originated successful Asia astir 7 cardinal years ago, past dispersed into some Africa and Europe astir 6 cardinal years ago.

Previous studies had suggested African and European subspecies evolved wrong the past cardinal years, says Dogantzis. She says that clip framework whitethorn beryllium much correct, due to the fact that the absorption of those studies was connected erstwhile the subspecies appeared, whereas the caller survey chiefly focuses on wherever they spread from.

Further investigation revealed that a halfway acceptable of astir 145 genes had mutations successful their sequences crossed each A. mellifera subspecies, adjacent though these bees adapted to vastly antithetic climates crossed temperate and tropical regions.

The tiny acceptable of genes progressive successful occidental honeybee adaptation was a surprise, arsenic the A. mellifera genome contains astir 12,000 genes successful total, says Amro Zayed, besides astatine York University, who was progressive successful the study.

However, knowing the genes progressive successful adaptation to caller environments mightiness beryllium useful, says Dogantzis. It mightiness supply targets if it is ever considered indispensable to genetically technologist honeybees to header with clime change.

In colonies, thousands of worker honeybees rear the brood, support the nest operation and cod food. When the researchers looked astatine the genes progressive successful bee adaptation, they recovered these genes were related to the morphology and behaviour of the idiosyncratic bees alternatively than the queen bees, adjacent though the second nutrient the eggs.

“Natural enactment acts connected the workers to optimise the fittingness of their colonies adjacent though they are not the reproductive [members of the colony]… highlighting the altruism of these societal insects,” says Pilar De la Rúa astatine the University of Murcia successful Spain.

“This survey is rather conclusive with the proposal of Asian root that galore of america researchers successful [the honeybee field] person been proclaiming,” says De la Rúa.

Journal reference: Science Advances, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abj2151

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