(Phys.org/Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) A team working at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute found evidence to support a long-debated mode of evolution, revealing how evolution captures environmental variation to teach old genes new tricks: Sweat bees switch from solitary to social behavior, repurposing ancient sets of genes that originally evolved to regulate the development of other traits.
(The Applied Ecologist) In their recently published article, Ignasi Bartomeus and colleagues show how the commercial bumble bee trade is affecting the genetic integrity of native pollinators. They show evidence that hybridization between commercial and native lines is common in southern Spain. What are its implications? What should we do to fix it? They’ve also crafted a wonderful video (with the help of Bartomeus’ kids) to explain it all.
(University of Zurich) Producing fewer sperm cells can be advantageous in self-fertilizing plants. An international study led by the University of Zurich has identified a gene in the model plant Arabidopsis that reduces the number of pollen. In addition to supporting the evolutionary theory, these findings could help to optimize plant breeding and domestication in agriculture.
(University of Sydney) Reversions to asexual reproduction are rare in nature. Asexual birth in the Cape honey bee may be the first time that the genetic basis of such a phenomenon has been discovered.
(Scientific American) “It is said that there are at least two distinct races of stingless bees in South America, but these races have not much value as honey gatherers, and moreover they build combs with very thick-walled cells, and probably they would not be worth cultivating as compared with the European, Asiatic and African races. But if we can cross our bees with the giant bees of India and obtain a race with a long proboscis and perhaps increased size (if that should prove to be of any advantage), and cross this improved race with the South American stingless bees, we shall then have a race of bees which it will be difficult to improve.”
(Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute) In a neotropical forest in Panama, an unusual bee was born. Its form was that of a male on one half and a female on the other half. Given the singularity of the occurrence, the group decided to describe an aspect of its behavior that hadn’t been previously studied in gynandromorphs: the circadian activity – the internal clock that drives an organism’s daily activities.
(ScienceDaily/Cell Press) Exposure to the widely used pesticide atrazine leads to heritable changes in the gut microbiome of wasps. Additionally, the altered microbiome confers atrazine resistance, which is inherited across successive generations not exposed to the pesticide. Even though these wasps are not natural crop pollinators, the study could have broad implications. Notably, bacterial atrazine-metabolizing genes are also present in wild bee populations exposed to the pesticide.
(ScienceDaily / University of California – Davis) Orchid bees are master perfumers, and research suggests that the perfumes males concoct are unique to their specific species. A new study now links the evolution of sexual signaling in orchid bees to a gene that’s been shaped by each species’ perfume preferences.