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South African worker honeybees reproduce by making near-perfect clones of themselves


by Bob Yirka
A team of researchers from the University of Sydney, the ARC-Plant Protection Research Institute and York University, has found that workers in a species of honeybee found in South Africa reproduce by making near-perfect clones of themselves. In their paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the group describes their study of the bees and what they learned about them.

Prior research has found that some creatures reproduce through parthenogenesis, in which individuals reproduce without mating. This form of reproduction has the advantage of not wasting time and energy on mating and the gene pool remains undiluted. The downside, of course, is loss of genetic diversity, which helps species survive in changing conditions. Prior research has also shown that for most species, parthenogenesis is a less-than-perfect way to produce offspring. This is because some tiny bit of genetic material is generally mixed wrong—these mistakes, known as recombinations, can lead to birth defects or non-productive eggs. In this new effort, the researchers have found a kind of honeybee that has developed a way to avoid recombinations.

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