Honeybee Clones Herself, Creates Immortal Clone Army of Millions
An individual South African Cape worker honeybee has aesexually created millions of perfect clones of herself.
SYDNEY— Over the past 30 years, an individual South African Cape worker honeybee has aesexually created millions of perfect clones of herself, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal.
The problem with this is that the army of worker clones represents a risk to the rival African lowland honey bee, causing the collapse of 10 percent of its colonies every year, according to Live Science.
Usually, when female honeybee workers reproduce aesexually, they simply reshuffle chromosomes they receive from their parents, passing on two of four, with no new genetic material introduced by a sexual partner. This gradually leads to a loss of genetic diversity and leaves the species vulnerable to being wiped out, which is why it is often preferable to rely on a queen bee reproducing sexually.
Female Cape honeybee workers, however, have a genetic mutation that enables them to pass on genetic material from all four chromosomes, with no reshuffling. This allows them to successfully clone themselves with no immediate loss of diversity.
In order to study this phenomenon, scientists compared the genomes of South African Cape honeybee workers with those of their queen and her offspring, finding the latter group had levels of recombination 100 times greater than the genetically identical, cloned offspring of the workers.
The author of the study says the problem with the proliferation of these cloned female worker bees is that they do not contribute to work inside hives, because they are reproductive. In normal circumstances, workers help feed the queen, drones and larvae, collecting pollen and nectar, and making wax, according to the Canadian Agriculture and Food Museum. But if hives fill with workers who won’t work, they collapse.
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