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Bee social activity tied to gene

Finding helps explain how honeybees developed their distinctive social behavior

Graciela Flores
A gene involved in egg production also helps honeybees exhibit some crucial social behaviors that distinguish them from solitary insects, researchers report in PLoS Biology this week.The gene vitellogenin, which is involved in egg production in all egg laying animals, coordinates three core aspects of bees' social life: "It paces the onset of foraging behavior, it primes bees for specialized foraging tasks, and it influences longevity, three very important life-history characteristics for honeybees," senior author Gro Amdam of Arizona State University told The Scientist.The results confirm predictions drawn from the sequence of the honey bee genome, which was published last October. The sequence suggested that new, distinguishing social behaviors likely developed from old genes and mechanisms."This is a very exciting paper," Thomas Flatt of Brown University, who did not participate in the study, told The Scientist. "It's the first mechanistic study to look at the genetic and...

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