News: News Archives
Modern Honeybee Decoded in Science Article Series Through Fossils, Genomics
A 100 million-year-old bee found trapped in amber from Burma shares several features and morphological structures with their modern-day descendants, including branched hairs believed to be used for pollen collection, according to a report in the 27 October 2006 issue of Science.
In their Brevium, researchers George Poinar of Oregon State University and Bryan Danforth of Cornell University also detail pollen grains found between two metatarsal segments of Melittosphex burmensis, an ancient honeybee.
Thirty-five to forty-five million years older than any other known bee specimen, the three-millimeter fossil bee confirms the insect's role as an important pollinator contributing to the rapid diversification of flowering plants in the early to mid-Cretaceous period, the authors say.
This issue of the journal Science also features a series of articles from researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the connection between behavior and the genome of the modern honeybee, Apis mellifera.
Using genomic data, Charles W. Whitfield and colleagues discovered that the modern honeybee is an African native that migrated to Eurasia two distinct times.
The authors also studied the genetic changes associated with the introduction of the African "killer" bee, A. scutellata, by examining the genetic composition of bee populations before and after the killer bee was introduced. The authors concluded that killer bees are a mix of three genetically distinct lineages.
Ying Wang and colleagues performed bioinformatic, molecular and biochemical studies on the honeybee genome to characterize the DNA methylation system, finding it more similar to vertebrates than to the model insect, the fruit fly. Since DNA methylation is believed to be involved in gene regulation, scientists hope this research will shed light on bee social behavior.
Additionally, chemist Amanda B. Hummon and colleagues were able to infer more than 200 neuropeptides from the genomic data. The description of honeybee neuropeptides, heavily processed proteins which are critical brain peptides that modulate behavior, allows scientists to better study honeybee behavior.
The honeybee package, along with a special news story by Elizabeth Pennisi, was timed to the publication of the complete honeybee genome in the journal Nature.
25 October 2006