Queens control worker reproduction without castration in stingless bee species

ScienceDaily | 9/12/2017 | Staff
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Since then, prompted by the theory of evolution, researchers have scrutinized every conceivable aspect of the life of bees. Decades ago, scientists discovered that in the nests of many species of European honeybees (genus Apis), in which healthy young queens regularly lay eggs, the queen uses chemical compounds called pheromones to inhibit worker reproduction.

As a result, the workers will have to care for the queen's offspring instead of their own. If the queen is old, falls sick or dies, causing the supply of queen pheromone to cease, specialized workers rear new drones that will fertilize the eggs destined to become future queens.

Part - Insects - Conflicts - Colony - Conflicts

"An important part of studying social insects is understanding how they resolve conflicts inside the colony, especially reproductive conflicts of interest. In some bee species, workers can produce drones, but this adaptation may create a conflict between the queen and the workers over who rears the drones," said biologist Túlio Marcos Nunes.

Nunes did his postdoctoral research at the University of São Paulo School of Pharmaceutical Sciences and is first author of a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, describing a study that set out to discover whether this adaptation is also found among the 600-odd species of stingless bees (tribe Meliponini) widely distributed in tropical and subtropical regions of the world.

Conflict - Relationship - Offspring - Queen - Workers

"The conflict is due to the differential genetic relationship between the offspring of the queen and the workers. From the evolutionary standpoint it's more worthwhile for workers to produce their own offspring [to which they are 50% genetically related] than raise the queen's offspring [with which they share only 25% of their DNA]," Nunes said.

Nunes's supervisor, Norberto Peporine Lopes, heads the Center for Research on Natural & Synthetic Products and is the principal investigator for the Thematic Project "Distribution and metabolism of natural and synthetic xenobiotics,"...
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