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Management increases genetic diversity of honey bees via admixture


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Published in "Molecular Ecology"

 

Haven't read it yet - hopefully get the chance a little later today. I believe it is free access.

 

Abstract

The process of domestication often brings about profound changes in levels of genetic variation in animals and plants. The honey bee,Apis mellifera, has been managed by humans for centuries for both honey and wax production and crop pollination. Human management and selective breeding are believed to have caused reductions in genetic diversity in honey bee populations, thereby contributing to the global declines threatening this ecologically and economically important insect. However, previous studies supporting this claim mostly relied on population genetic comparisons of European and African (or Africanized) honey bee races; such conclusions require reassessment given recent evidence demonstrating that the honey bee originated in Africa and colonized Europe via two independent expansions. We sampled honey bee workers from two managed populations in North America and Europe as well as several old-world progenitor populations in Africa, East and West Europe. Managed bees had highly introgressed genomes representing admixture between East and West European progenitor populations. We found that managed honey bees actually have higher levels of genetic diversity compared with their progenitors in East and West Europe, providing an unusual example whereby human management increases genetic diversity by promoting admixture. The relationship between genetic diversity and honey bee declines is tenuous given that managed bees have more genetic diversity than their progenitors and many viable domesticated animals.

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Sorry - forgot to give the authors credit!

Authors are: BROCK A. HARPUR, SHERMINEH MINAEI, CLEMENT F. KENT and AMRO ZAYED

 

Web Link: Management increases genetic diversity of honey bees via admixture - HARPUR - 2012 - Molecular Ecology - Wiley Online Library

 

Also check the perspective written on this article by Benjamin Oldroyd (Domestication of honey bees was associated with expansion of genetic diversity - OLDROYD - 2012 - Molecular Ecology - Wiley Online Library).

 

Humans have been keeping honey bees, Apis mellifera, in artificial hives for over 7000 years. Long enough, one might imagine, for some genetic changes to have occurred in domestic bees that would distinguish them from their wild ancestors. Indeed, some have argued that the recent mysterious and widespread losses of commercial bee colonies, are due in part to inbreeding. In this issue of Molecular Ecology, Harpur et al. (2012) show that the domestication of honey bees, rather than reducing genetic variance in the population, has increased it. It seems that the commercial honey bees of Canada are a mongrel lot, with far more variability than their ancestors in Europe.

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It's the status of the 'addmixture' in New Zealand that would cause concern isn't it? My bet would be genetic diversity is lower here than you would expect in EU or N America, but I agree with the proposition that "The relationship between genetic diversity and honey bee declines is tenuous."

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