BackgroundIn social Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), various chemical compounds present on the cuticle have been shown to act as fertility signals. In addition, specific queen-characteristic hydrocarbons have been implicated as sterility-inducing queen signals in ants, wasps and bumblebees. In Corbiculate bees, however, the chemical nature of queen-characteristic and fertility-linked compounds appears to be more diverse than in ants and wasps. Moreover, it remains unknown how queen signals evolved across this group and how they might have been co-opted from fertility signals in solitary ancestors.ResultsHere, we perform a phylogenetic analysis of fertility-linked compounds across 16 species of solitary and eusocial bee species, comprising both literature data as well as new primary data from a key solitary outgroup species, the oil-collecting bee Centris analis, and the highly eusocial stingless bee Scaptotrigona depilis. Our results demonstrate the presence of fertility-linked compounds belonging to 12 different chemical classes. In addition, we find that some classes of compounds (linear and branched alkanes, alkenes, esters and fatty acids) were already present as fertility-linked signals in the solitary ancestors of Corbiculate bees, while others appear to be specific to certain species.ConclusionOverall, our results suggest that queen signals in Corbiculate bees are likely derived from ancestral fertility-linked compounds present in solitary bees that lacked reproductive castes. These original fertility-linked cues or signals could have been produced either as a by-product of ovarian activation or could have served other communicative purposes, such as in mate recognition or the regulation of egg-laying.
Ricardo Caliari Oliveira, C. A. Oi, Mauricio Meirelles Castro do Nascimento
BMC Evolutionary Biology