February 26, 2008

Bees Benefit from Hybridization

As bees invade areas where honey bees are already present, they typically interbreed, but researchers recently found that when this occurs, their offspring appears to benefit genetically.

In this week's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Charles W. Whitfield, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, reported what he discovered while studying bees in Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas, while focusing on areas such as Brazil and South America, where invasions have already occurred.

"We asked the question: Is hybridization an essentially random process?" co-author Amro Zayed said in a statement.

The team found that as the bees mated, there was a noticeable trend in producing their offspring with more adapted functional traits.

"What we found was there was a preference for picking up functional parts of the western European genome over the nonfunctional parts," Zayed said.

Whitfield's team said that the reason for this is uncertain, but it may be because certain traits are beneficial to survival in an area. They did notice that the hybridized newcomers did seem to benefit over its predecessors.

The University of Illinois and the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada were both supporters of the research.


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