Genomic signatures of evolutionary transitions from solitary to group living

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Science  05 Jun 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6239, pp. 1139-1143
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa4788

For bees, many roads lead to social harmony

Eusociality, where workers sacrifice their reproductive rights to support the colony, has evolved repeatedly and represents the most evolved form of social evolution in insects. Kapheim et al. looked across the genomes of 10 bee species with varying degrees of sociality to determine the underlying genomic contributions. No one genomic path led to eusociality, but similarities across genomes were seen in features such as increases in gene regulation and methylation. It also seems that selection pressures relaxed after the emergence of complex sociality.

Science, this issue p. 1139


The evolution of eusociality is one of the major transitions in evolution, but the underlying genomic changes are unknown. We compared the genomes of 10 bee species that vary in social complexity, representing multiple independent transitions in social evolution, and report three major findings. First, many important genes show evidence of neutral evolution as a consequence of relaxed selection with increasing social complexity. Second, there is no single road map to eusociality; independent evolutionary transitions in sociality have independent genetic underpinnings. Third, though clearly independent in detail, these transitions do have similar general features, including an increase in constrained protein evolution accompanied by increases in the potential for gene regulation and decreases in diversity and abundance of transposable elements. Eusociality may arise through different mechanisms each time, but would likely always involve an increase in the complexity of gene networks.

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