Physiological and genetic mechanisms underlying caste development, reproduction and division of labor in stingless bees

Investigations on physiological and molecular mechanisms underlying developmental and reproductive differentiation in social bees center on the question of how different patterns of larval nutrition can affect hormonal dynamics and how these drive differential gene expression. Differential expression analyses and the generation of AFLP markers now enable us to re-examine the question of genetic caste determination in the genus Melipona. The comparison of vitellogenin expression in three species of stingless bees suggests divergence in regulatory mechanisms that directly relate to the mode of worker reproduction. As in honey bees, this indicates alternative functions for vitellogenin in the life cycle of adult workers. The diversity in life histories and their associated specific physiologies make the stingless bees a rich resource for information on evolutionary trajectories that have generated phenotypic plasticity in social Hymenoptera.


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