Genetic variation and the evolutionary history of honeybees

The Western Honeybee Apis mellifera is essential to agriculture due to its role as a pollinator but it is also a species threatened by pathogens and colony loss. Patterns of genetic variation among honeybee populations from different continents and habitats may elucidate the genetic basis of adaptation.

We have sequenced the full genomes of 140 individuals of wild, domestic and hybridized A. mellifera sampled across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. Scanning the genome sequences, we detected millions of genetic variants, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), among these specimens and used the patterns of genetic variation to infer the evolutionary history of the honeybee. We have reconstructed the interrelationships among todays populations and inferred when and where they originated. Zooming in on chromosomal regions and SNPs of high differentiation among populations, we have compiled lists of genes that carry signals of selection. These genes and variants may be coding for functions and adaptations responding to ongoing environmental challenges, such as adaptation against disease and parasites, and provide insight into how we can maintain healthy stocks of domestic bees in the future.

Sounds interesting? Fly over to the article in Nature Genetics and check what the buzz is all about!

Wallberg et al. (2014) “A worldwide survey of genome sequence variation provides insight into the evolutionary history of the honeybee Apis mellifera, Nature Genetics, DOI: 10.1038/NG.3077

PS. Wohoo!

From where did the Western honeybee (Apis mellifera) originate?

The native distribution of the Western honeybee (A mellifera) spans Europe, the Middle East and Africa, covering temperate and tropical climates. Nearly 30 subspecies of honeybees have been described to account for the phenotypic variation throughout this vast range but the geographic origin of the species has remained elusive. In a recent paper in Ecology and Evolution (22957195), we reviewed the competing hypotheses about the origin of the species and performed extensive reanalysis of the currently most comprehensive SNP dataset on honeybees (17068261). Go here for the complete article!