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Honeybees Came from Asia

Aug 25, 2014 03:02 AM EDT

Honeybees originated from Asia and not Africa, states a new study.

Researchers at the Uppsala University used genomic analysis to decode evolutionary history of honeybees. The team said that the honeybee (Apis mellifera) came from an ancient lineage of bees that lived in cavities. These ancient bees came from Asia around 300,000 years ago and spread to Europe and Africa. The study challenges the idea that honeybees originated from Africa.

"The evolutionary tree we constructed from genome sequences does not support an origin in Africa, this gives us new insight into how honeybees spread and became adapted to habitats across the world," said Matthew Webster, researcher at the department of Medical Biochemistry and Microbiology, Uppsala University.

The study also found that honeybee populations have been affected by climate change in the past. Honeybees are top pollinators; at least a third of our food comes from plants pollinated by these bees. the researchers said that understanding evolution of honeybees as well as factors that affect their population size can help humans increase crop yields.

According to the researchers, honeybees show high levels of genetic diversity.

"We have used state-of-the-art high-throughput genomics to address these questions, and have identified high levels of genetic diversity in honeybees. In contrast to other domestic species, management of honeybees seems to have increased levels of genetic variation by mixing bees from different parts of the world. The findings may also indicate that high levels of inbreeding are not a major cause of global colony losses," said Webster in a news release.

The team also teased-out specific mutations in genes that are linked to certain important factors such as climate change and pathogens.

The study is published in the journal Nature.       

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