AUSSIE RESEARCH EXPLAIN VIRGIN BIRTH

Australian scientists have finally explained virgin birth, not among humans but in a parasitical species of Cape honey bees prevalent in South Africa.

In a study published on May 7, 2020 in Current Biology and carried the following day by Science Daily, researchers from University of Sydney identified the single gene, GB45239 on chromosome 11, that determines how Cape honey bees reproduce without ever having sex.


"It is extremely exciting," said Professor Benjamin Oldroyd in the School of Life and Environmental Sciences. "Scientists have been looking for this gene for the last 30 years. Now that we know it's on chromosome 11, we have solved a mystery."

Behavioral geneticist Prof. Oldroyd said: "Sex is a weird way to reproduce and yet it is the most common form of reproduction for animals and plants on the planet. It's a major biological mystery why there is so much sex going on and it doesn't make evolutionary sense. Asexuality is a much more efficient way to reproduce, and every now and then we see a species revert to it."

In the Cape honey bee, found in South Africa, the gene has allowed worker bees to lay eggs that only produce females instead of the normal males that other honey bees do. "Males are mostly useless," Oldroyd said. "But Cape workers can become genetically reincarnated as a female queen and that prospect changes everything."

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