The Antiquity and Evolutionary History of Social Behavior in Bees.

Cardinal, S. and Danforth, B.N. (2011). "The Antiquity and Evolutionary History of Social Behavior in Bees.", PLoS ONE, 6(6, Article No. e21086). doi : 10.1371/journal.pone.0021086  Access to full text

Abstract

A long-standing controversy in bee social evolution concerns whether highly eusocial behavior has evolved once or twice within the corbiculate Apidae. Corbiculate bees include the highly eusocial honey bees and stingless bees, the primitively eusocial bumble bees, and the predominantly solitary or communal orchid bees. Here we use a model-based approach to reconstruct the evolutionary history of eusociality and date the antiquity of eusocial behavior in apid bees, using a recent molecular phylogeny of the Apidae. We conclude that eusociality evolved once in the common ancestor of the corbiculate Apidae, advanced eusociality evolved independently in the honey and stingless bees, and that eusociality was lost in the orchid bees. Fossil-calibrated divergence time estimates reveal that eusociality first evolved at least 87 Mya (78 to 95 Mya) in the corbiculates, much earlier than in other groups of bees with less complex social behavior. These results provide a robust new evolutionary framework for studies of the organization and genetic basis of social behavior in honey bees and their relatives.

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