In a study published in Nature Genetics, researchers from Uppsala University present the first global analysis of genome variation in honeybees. The findings show a surprisingly high level of genetic diversity in honeybees, and indicate that the species most probably originates from Asia, and not from Africa as previously thought.
The honeybee (Apis mellifera) is of crucial importance for humanity. One third of our food is dependent on the pollination of fruits, nuts and vegetables by bees and other insects. Extensive losses of honeybee colonies in recent years are a major cause for concern.
Honeybees face threats from disease, climate change, and management practices. To combat these threats it is important to understand the evolutionary history of honeybees and how they are adapted to different environments across the world.
"We have used state-of-the-art high-throughput genomics to address these questions, and have identified high levels of genetic diversity in honeybees. In contrast to other domestic species, management of honeybees seems to have increased levels of genetic variation by mixing bees from different parts of the world. The findings may also indicate that high levels of inbreeding are not a major cause of global colony losses", says Matthew Webster, researcher at the department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University.
Another unexpected result was that honeybees seem to be derived from an ancient lineage of cavity-nesting bees that arrived from Asia around 300,000 years ago and rapidly spread across Europe and Africa. This stands in contrast to previous research that suggests that honeybees originate from Africa.
"The evolutionary tree we constructed from genome sequences does not support an origin in Africa, this gives us new insight into how honeybees spread and became adapted to habitats across the world", says Matthew Webster.
Hidden in the patterns of genome variation are signals that indicate large cyclical fluctuations in population size that mirror historical patterns of glaciation. This indicates that climate change has strongly impacted honeybee populations historically.
"Populations in Europe appear to have contracted during ice ages whereas African populations have expanded at those times, suggesting that environmental conditions there were more favourable", says Matthew Webster.
The researchers also identified specific mutations in genes important in adaptation to factors such as climate and pathogens, including those involved in morphology, behaviour and innate immunity.
"The study provides new insights into evolution and genetic adaptation, and establishes a framework for investigating the biological mechanisms behind disease resistance and adaptation to climate, knowledge that could be vital for protecting honeybees in a rapidly changing world", says Matthew Webster.
Reference: "A worldwide survey of genome sequence variation provides insight into the evolutionary history of the honeybee Apis mellifera . Wallberg et al.
For more information, contact Matthew Webster, phone: +46 18 471 43 91, mobile: +46 70 615 96 59, e-mail: email@example.com
Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) is a centre for molecular biosciences with the focus on health and environmental research. The centre combines advanced technical know-how and state-of-the art equipment with a broad knowledge of translational medicine and molecular bioscience. SciLifeLab is a national resource and a collaboration between four universities: Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm University and Uppsala University.
Matthew Webster | Eurek Alert!
Molecular Spies to Fight Cancer - Procedure for improving tumor diagnosis successfully tested
03.08.2015 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf
Stroke: news about platelets
03.08.2015 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
Glacier decline in the first decade of the 21st century has reached a historical record, since the onset of direct observations. Glacier melt is a global phenomenon and will continue even without further climate change. This is shown in the latest study by the World Glacier Monitoring Service under the lead of the University of Zurich, Switzerland.
The World Glacier Monitoring Service, domiciled at the University of Zurich, has compiled worldwide data on glacier changes for more than 120 years. Together...
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
03.08.2015 | Materials Sciences
03.08.2015 | Life Sciences
03.08.2015 | Life Sciences