A new study published in PLoS Genetics ascribes the adaptations in honeybees that reside at high altitudes to ancient genetic alterations. The researchers sequenced the genomes of Kenyan honeybees from mountain forests or lowland savannahs and uncovered that regions located on chromosome 7 and 9 were consistently different between the two populations. This could explain why mountain-dwelling bees, as oppose to their lowland counterparts, are able to e.g. fly at lower temperatures and conserve honey even when flowers aren’t blooming.
“This is the first time these two variants of African honeybees have been studied and compared in detail”, says Matthew Webster (Uppsala University/SciLifeLab faculty), shared last author on the current paper.
“The next step is to investigate the effects of these genetic differences, for example if they are the reason why the highland populations are a bit larger, darker, less aggressive and have a different way of searching for food”, Matthew Webster adds.
The honeybee project is part of SciLifeLab National Projects initiative, which through the support of Knut and Alice Wallenberg foundation provides funding for large-scale genomic research in Sweden. The initiative aims to propel new initiatives in the life science sector with a focus on whole genome sequencing and biodiversity. Both programs are based on massively parallel sequencing using the National Genomics Infrastructure (NGI) at SciLifeLab.
The 2017 call for National Projects proposals is open and the application deadline is June 15, 2017.