Washington: A team of researchers has identified a single gene in honeybees that separates the queen from the workers.
The team led by Wayne State University, in collaboration with Michigan State University, unraveled the gene`s inner workings. The gene, which is responsible for leg and wing development, plays a crucial role in the evolution of bees` ability to carry pollen.
"The gene - Ultrabithorax, or Ubx - is responsible for making hind legs different from fore legs so they can carry pollen," Aleksandar Popadic , principal investigator of the study, said. "In some groups, like crickets, Ubx is responsible for creating a `jumping` hind leg. In others, such as bees, it makes a pollen basket - a `naked,` bristle-free leg region that creates a space for packing pollen."
Ubx represses the development of bristles on bees` hind legs, creating a smooth surface that can be used for packing pollen. This important discovery can be used as a foray into more commercial studies focused on providing means to enhance a bee`s pollination ability- the bigger the pollen basket, the more pollen that can be packed in it and transported back to the hive.
In another interesting finding, researchers identified that bees living in more complex social structures have an advantage over isolated populations in developing these important functions.
The study was published in the journal Biology Letters.