AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: animal behavior

The Humane Honey Bee

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)

Is Training Your Dog Useless?

For about 100 years, humans have been trying to train the domestic animals, such as dogs, that they live with. They put in lots of time and effort for teach their dogs simple tricks such as sitting, lying down, and staying in place. While it is rewarding to have a dog listen to commands after teaching and training them, this may not as great of an accomplishment as previously thought. As a dog owner myself, this had me worried, but as a recent ScienceNews post says, the answer to how to train a dog may just lie in their genetics. 

Training Dogs May Be an Outdated Practice

This was the hypothesis that Noah Snyder-Mackler had as he and a few other colleagues from the University of Washington in Seattle attempted to prove its legitimacy. Primarily, the group collected data about 101 different breeds of dogs from two dog genotypes databases and a survey titled C-BARQ, a survey where dog owners submit information about behavior from their dogs such as aggressiveness or ability to listen. As the data came in, there were over 14,000 submissions and they were all scored on 14 different traits. Overall, Snyder-Mackler and his group found that poodles and border collies had higher traits of trainability and Chihuahuas and dachshunds had higher traits of aggressiveness. However this does not means that training a dog is rendered useless since there was about a small correlation, 50%, between energy level and fearfulness.

Aggression Could Have Been Caused from Genetics

Next the researchers tried to see if certain traits correlated with certain genes. After doing more research they found that no genes specially aligned with a breeds behaviors, but this does not mean that the research is useless since even though this  does not show that a gene brings about a behavioral trait, but it shows that this subject needs more research to be able to determine the validity of Snyder-Mackler’s original hypothesis.

Dogs are very complex genetically and therefore behavioral traits are both a combination of genetics and training. As Carlos Alvarez, a researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says, “Dogs are a really powerful system to investigate the genetics of many traits and diseases because generations of domestication and breeding have simplified their genomes. This study shows that behavior is no different.” Overall while this research is just the start and is incomplete in totality, it shows that there is much more to discover regarding this topic. If you have any traits that you think correlate with either your dog’s genes or breed, please post a comment a explain why.


Bears Are Adapting To Our Unbearable Drones

A recent paper by Mark A Ditmer’s researchers offers some insight that suggests that American black bears are adapting to the exposure of unmanned drones.

An American Black Bear
Photo Credit: Stephan Oachs

These drones are used mainly for conservation purposes to gather data in various environments. Yet, animals are known to be disturbed by low flying drones, displaying changes in animal behavior when drones are near. In fact, many animals display behavioral signs of fear towards a low flying drone.

However, most recently, Ditmer’s group of researchers discovered American black bears are adapting to the presence of drones after repeated exposure. The researchers performed used drones previously before not using them for 118 days. Afterwards, they began drone tests again. Immediately, using cardiac biologgers, the researchers saw signs of increased tolerance from American black bears to drone presence.

Something to note is that this tolerance to drone exposure is probably species dependent. In particular, more social animals that interact with humans frequently are assumed to have higher tolerance drones. This implies that the American black bear has evolved and habituated to human exposure and, as a result, have increased tolerance after repeated exposure to unique stimuli.

Despite this discovery, Ditmer warns that “close-proximity drones near wildlife should [still] be avoided.” However, he expresses that this new discovery “can provide benefits without long-term high-stress consequences” for drones with conservation purposes.


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