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Sunday, 2 April 2017

80 Million years old Microbes identified from Bees' Gut


80 Million years is a very long time since bees began exhibiting their own social behaviour and they carry over generations of such old bacteria till today inside host bees. A new study published in the journal Science Advances led by researchers from University of Texas identifies such group of bacteria that live in guts of bees and have 80 million years of generation after generation journey. The importance of this finding lies how the social creatures like humans and bees have distinctive relationship with such tiny creatures called bacteria evolving together over such long period of time.

“The fact that these bacteria have been with the bees for so long says that they are a key part of the biology of social bees,” says Nancy Moran, a professor of integrative biology at the university who co-led the research with postdoctoral researcher Waldan Kwong. “And it suggests that disrupting the microbiome, through antibiotics or other kinds of stress, could cause health problems.”

Bees may have acquired their core microbiota around the same time as the transition to social lifestyles. Closely related bees have more similar microbiomes, suggesting co-diversification of host bees and their microbes. Image: Waldan K. Kwong and John. S. Ascher, University of Texas

Different bees have different social life style and they adopt different microbiome in their gut accordingly. In this new research, they identified five species of bacteria that bees took up 80million years ago. Those bacteria able to survive and evolved inside the gut in diversifying way and are specific to different species of bees.

“Most of them can’t live under atmospheric oxygen levels,” says Moran. “They can’t just grow in nectar or on the surface of a plant. They have to be in the bee gut.”

This is also the first time study where they chart the evolution of gut bacteria into animal host. Until now this is the longest evolution of gut bacteria.

A postdoctoral researcher from University of British Columbia, Kwong travelled across Asia to collect bees for such an important project. He has isolated 27 different bees species and sequenced DNA to identify different classes of gut microbiome. For each species they identified they built set of phylogeny or evolution tree. The final result was co-specification, where hundreds of species that are alive today have unique strains of bacterial species shared.


Scientists suggest that these bacteria are typically a symbiont where they can sustain only at guts of certain bees.

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