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The social life of honeybees coordinated by a single gene

Whats more, the vitellogenin-deficient bees died earlier than the controls, demonstrating the proteins influence on honeybee longevity.

Altogether, these results demonstrate that vitellogenin regulates the organizational structure of honeybee society by influencing workers division of labor and foraging preference. Vitellogenin, the researchers conclude, controls not only when bees start foraging and how long they live, but what they forage. Higher levels early in life favor pollen; lower levels favor nectar. Since current methods cannot yet distinguish the effects of vitellogenin from those of juvenile hormone, the researchers argue that the two physiological factors should be considered as partners in mediating task assignment and specialization. Since this partnership is uncommon in insects, it suggests that social behavior in honeybees emerged from a makeover of relations between vitellogenin and juvenile hormone. It also bolsters the notion that factors normally in control of female reproduction can lay the foundation for the transition from solitary life to complex social behavior.


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Contact: Natalie Bouaravong
press@plos.org
415-568-3445
Public Library of Science
5-Mar-2007


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