Free Access
Volume 37, Number 2, March-April 2006
Stingless bees: biology and management
Page(s) 144 - 163
Published online 22 March 2006
Apidologie 37 (2006) 144-163
DOI: 10.1051/apido:2006013

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

Klaus Hartfeldera, Gustavo R. Makertb, Carla C. Judicec, Gonçalo A.G. Pereirac, Weyder C. Santanad, Rodrigo Dallacquad and Márcia M.G. Bitondid

a  Departamento de Biologia Celular e Molecular e Bioagentes Patogênicos, Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
b  Departamento de Genética, Faculdade de Medicina de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil
c  Departamento de Genética e Evolução, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
d  Departamento de Biologia, Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil

(Received 26 September 2005 - revised 29 November 2005 - accepted 23 December 2005 - published online 22 March 2006)

Abstract - 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.

Key words: stingless bee / caste development / juvenile hormone / vitellogenin / worker reproduction / Apidae / Meliponini

© INRA, DIB-AGIB, EDP Sciences 2006