A recently published study in Molecular Ecology from Penn State introduced the fascinating world of worker honey bees and their altruistic characteristics. These characteristics are shown when worker bees assist the queen bee after being exposed to her pheromone. It involves deactivating their own ovaries, helping to share the pheromone with other workers, and caring for the queen and her eggs. What’s fascinating is that the genes responsible for driving this altruistic behavior can be inherited from either parent. However, the study revealed a twist: these genes only lead to altruism when passed down from the mother, not the father. This finding suggests that the origin of gene inheritance from the mother or father profoundly impacts honey bees’ behavior.

European honey bee extracts nectar

This study also lends strong support to the Kinship Theory of Intragenomic Conflict, which proposes that genes from both parents may be in conflict over which behaviors to support or discourage. As briefly talked about in class, genetic inheritance occurs due to genetic material, in the form of DNA, being passed from parents to their offspring. Genes, which consist of specific DNA sequences, contain the instructions for protein synthesis through the genetic code. Hereditary processes are utilized to read these DNA sequences and assemble proteins accordingly. In essence, genes are the segments of DNA that code for proteins. In the case of honey bees, genes inherited from the mother encourage altruistic behavior that ultimately benefits the queen’s reproductive success, while genes from the father tend to lean more towards self-serving behavior.

To get to these conclusions, the researchers conducted a series of experiments that involved cross-breeding different honey bee lineages. They assessed the responsiveness of worker bees to the queen’s pheromone and observed behavior. This investigation allowed them to identify the significance of maternal or paternal gene expression bias in shaping honey bee behavior. Overall, this study provides insights into the complex world of gene conflicts in honey bees and suggests that gene origin plays a vital role in shaping behaviors.

(Post includes edits suggested by Grammarly)

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