There is an isolated population of bees, better known as the Cape bees, they live in South Africa and have developed a strategy to reproduce without males. A team of researchers at the University of Uppsala, sequenced the entire genomes of samples of the bees from the Cape and compared them with other populations of bees in order to discover the genetic mechanisms responsible for their asexual reproduction.
The reality is that most animals reproduce sexually, which means that males and females are both necessary for species to survive. However, this isolated bee’s population living in South Africa has developed a strategy for doing so without the existence of males.
In the organization of Cape bees, female workers are able to reproduce asexually, that is, they lay eggs that are essentially fertilized by their own DNA, which in turn develop into new worker bees. These bees are still able to invade the nests of other bees and continue to reproduce themselves in that way eventually take over the strange nests, a behavior known as social parasitism.
The explanation for the origin of this behavior is still unknown, however, the research team came closer to discovering the genetic mechanisms responsible for its reproduction without males. They have already found marked differences in several genes, which may explain both the abnormal type of egg production that leads to reproduction without males, as well as the unique behavior of social parasitism.
“The question of why this bee population in South Africa evolved to reproduce asexually is still a mystery. In addition, understanding why populations sometimes reproduce asexually can help us understand the evolutionary advantage of sex, which is a major conundrum for evolutionary biologists”, said Matthew Webster, a researcher with the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology at the University of Uppsala.