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Adaptation to Temperate Climates in Honey bees Revealed by a New Subspecies in China



Recently, a team led by Dr. Wei Shi from the Institute of Apicultural Research (IAR) of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) made a significant progress on understanding genetic resources and adaptation of honey bees (Apis mellifera) in China. Their findings were published in Molecular Biology and Evolution (5-Year Impact Factor: 15.667) in Feb 2016.

The western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is an interesting species to study climate-driven adaptation because it originated in tropical/subtropical climatic regions and subsequently spread into temperate regions. However, little is known about the genetic basis of its adaptation to temperate climates. The study reports the first discovery of Apis mellifera population in China, extending the eastern boundary of the distribution of Apis mellifera into western China. Employing a population genomic approach, researchers designated the population as a new subspecies of honey bee (Apis mellifera sinisxinyuan), and found that long-term global temperature has strongly influenced its demographic history and divergence from other subspecies. The study also identified a series of genes related to fat body and the Hippo signaling pathway that are potentially involved in adaptation to temperate climates. These findings will facilitate the selective breeding of A. mellifera to improve the survival of overwintering colonies.

Fig. 1 Phylogenetic tree of honey bee populations.

Fig. 2 Population genetics and demographic history. (A) Time of divergence between populations in thousands of years. (B) Demographic history of A. m. sinisxinyuan.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        By Chen Chao