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The evolution of honeybee multiple queen-pheromones - A consequence of a queen-worker arms race?



The evolution of honeybee multiple queen-pheromones - A consequence of a queen-worker arms race?



Brazilian Journal of Morphological Sciences 23(3-4): 287-294



Queen-worker interactions in the honeybee colony are mostly pheromone-mediated, and include both cooperative and conflictual interactions. The perceived presence of the queen, presumably through pheromone emission, induces harmony in the colony that promotes rapid ergonomic growth and eventually reproduction by swarming. Queens, however, are not portrayed by a single pheromone, but characteristically have a multipheromone-multiglandular bouquet. Some of these pheromones, despite being produced by disparate glands, appear to have the same behavioral and physiological effects on workers. Why should such redundancy have evolved? I suggest that this evolution is linked to the conflict between queen and workers over male production. Although multiple inseminations in the honeybee queen have resulted in worker policing, and seemingly a resolution to the conflict, results suggest that worker reproductive and pheromonal plasticity indicates an ongoing arms race between queen and workers. Queens are selected to inhibit worker reproduction (by producing inhibitory pheromones) whereas workers are selected to bypass this inhibition (through developing insensitivity to the pheromone). The arms race is thus expressed in the continuous evolution of new queen pheromones for inhibiting worker reproduction, while workers constantly evolve to resist them. To support the arms-race hypothesis, I provide here some examples from pheromone chemistry and biosynthesis as well as from mutant bee-lines in which worker reproduction exists.

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