Research Article

Rapid morphological changes in populations of hybrids between Africanized and European honey bees

Published: September 17, 2012
Genet. Mol. Res. 11 (3) : 3349-3356 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4238/2012.September.17.5
Cite this Article:
(2012). Rapid morphological changes in populations of hybrids between Africanized and European honey bees. Genet. Mol. Res. 11(3): gmr2371. https://doi.org/10.4238/2012.September.17.5
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Abstract

African honey bees, introduced to Brazil in 1956, rapidly dominated the previously introduced European subspecies. To better understand how hybridization between these different types of bees proceeded, we made geometric morphometric analyses of the wing venation patterns of specimens resulting from crosses made between Africanized honey bees (predominantly Apis mellifera scutellata) and Italian honey bees (A. mellifera ligustica) from 1965 to 1967, at the beginning of the Africanization process, in an apiary about 150 km from the original introduction site. Two virgin queens reared from an Italian parental were instrumentally inseminated with semen from drones from an Africanized parental. Six F1 queens from one of these colonies were open mated with Africanized drones. Resultant F1 drones were backcrossed to 50 Italian and 50 Africanized parental queens. Five backcross workers were collected from each of eight randomly selected colonies of each type of backcross (N = 5 bees x 8 colonies x 2 types of backcrosses). The F1 progeny (40 workers and 30 drones) was found to be morphologically closer to the Africanized than to the European parental (N = 20 drones and 40 workers, each); Mahalanobis square distances = 21.6 versus 25.8, respectively, for the workers, and 39.9 versus 46.4, respectively, for the drones. The worker progenies of the backcrosses (N = 40, each) were placed between the respective parental and the F1 progeny, although closer to the Africanized than to the Italian parentals (Mahalanobis square distance = 6.2 versus 12.1, respectively). Consequently, the most common crosses at the beginning of the Africanization process would have generated individuals more similar to Africanized than to Italian bees. This adds a genetic explanation for the rapid changes in the populational morphometric profile in recently colonized areas. Africanized alleles of wing venation pattern genes are apparently dominant and epistatic.

African honey bees, introduced to Brazil in 1956, rapidly dominated the previously introduced European subspecies. To better understand how hybridization between these different types of bees proceeded, we made geometric morphometric analyses of the wing venation patterns of specimens resulting from crosses made between Africanized honey bees (predominantly Apis mellifera scutellata) and Italian honey bees (A. mellifera ligustica) from 1965 to 1967, at the beginning of the Africanization process, in an apiary about 150 km from the original introduction site. Two virgin queens reared from an Italian parental were instrumentally inseminated with semen from drones from an Africanized parental. Six F1 queens from one of these colonies were open mated with Africanized drones. Resultant F1 drones were backcrossed to 50 Italian and 50 Africanized parental queens. Five backcross workers were collected from each of eight randomly selected colonies of each type of backcross (N = 5 bees x 8 colonies x 2 types of backcrosses). The F1 progeny (40 workers and 30 drones) was found to be morphologically closer to the Africanized than to the European parental (N = 20 drones and 40 workers, each); Mahalanobis square distances = 21.6 versus 25.8, respectively, for the workers, and 39.9 versus 46.4, respectively, for the drones. The worker progenies of the backcrosses (N = 40, each) were placed between the respective parental and the F1 progeny, although closer to the Africanized than to the Italian parentals (Mahalanobis square distance = 6.2 versus 12.1, respectively). Consequently, the most common crosses at the beginning of the Africanization process would have generated individuals more similar to Africanized than to Italian bees. This adds a genetic explanation for the rapid changes in the populational morphometric profile in recently colonized areas. Africanized alleles of wing venation pattern genes are apparently dominant and epistatic.