Honeybee genome throws up survival clues

2014-08-25 19:40
A pollen covered bee sits on a sunflower in Sehnde in the region of Hannover, northern Germany. (Julian Stratenschulte, AP, dpa)

A pollen covered bee sits on a sunflower in Sehnde in the region of Hannover, northern Germany. (Julian Stratenschulte, AP, dpa)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - Honeybees probably originated in Asia, not Africa, said scientists on Sunday who had teased interesting tidbits from the busy little pollinators' genome that they hope can be used to protect it.

They sequenced the genomes of 140 honeybees from 14 populations from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, United States and Brazil, looking for DNA clues as to how the insects responded to survival threats throughout their 300 000-year history.

Honeybees, responsible for pollinating a large chunk of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we eat, are in decline in many parts of the world, raising concerns for food security.

An international expert team reported in the journal Nature Genetics that they had found evidence of evolutionary adaptation on some 3 000 individual genes of the Apis mellifera species, that boosted functions like immunity and climate adaptability.

This information could lay the foundation for producing bees in future that are more resistant, for example, to the Varroa mite that has been implicated in hive declines in Europe and North America.

"We have compared the entire genomes of honeybees from Africa and Europe and identified positions in the genome where they differ," study co-author Matthew Webster from Sweden's Uppsala University told AFP.

"Amongst these positions may be specific differences that make African bees more resistant to Varroa... If we could identify these genetic differences we could understand what makes them more resistant. This could help us to produce more disease-resistant honeybee populations in Europe and North America, which would be a major step in fighting honeybee declines."

The team had also found a "surprisingly high" level of genetic diversity for a domesticated species.

This diversity was obtained through mixing honeybees from different parts of the world - suggesting that inbreeding is not the cause of the current colony losses, the researchers said.

The genetic analysis also showed that climate changes over the past 300 000 years had affected honeybee population sizes.

"If we knew how bees are adapted to warm or cold climates then this could help us to maintain populations that are adapted to local environments and protect them from climate change," said Webster.

Read more on:    nature  |  france  |  insects  |  dna

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.