PARIS: Honeybees probably originated in Asia, not Africa, said scientists yesterday who had teased interesting tidbits from the busy little pollinators’ genome that they hope can be used to protect it.
They sequenced the genomes of 140 honeybees from 14 populations from Europe, Africa, the Middle East, United States and Brazil, looking for DNA clues as to how the insects responded to survival threats throughout their 300,000-year history.
Honeybees, responsible for pollinating a large chunk of the fruits, nuts and vegetables we eat, are in decline in many parts of the world, raising concerns for food security.
An international expert team reported in the journal Nature Genetics that they had found evidence of evolutionary adaptation on some 3,000 individual genes of the Apis mellifera species, that boosted functions like immunity and climate adaptability.
This information could lay the foundation for producing bees in future that are more resistant, for example, to the Varroa mite that has been implicated in hive declines in Europe and North America.
“We have compared the entire genomes of honeybees from Africa and Europe and identified positions in the genome where they differ,” study co-author Matthew Webster from Sweden’s Uppsala University told AFP.
The team had also found a “surprisingly high” level of genetic diversity for a domesticated