Article open access publication

The genomes of two key bumblebee species with primitive eusocial organization

Genome Biology, Springer Nature, ISSN 1465-6906

Volume 16, 1, 2015

DOI:10.1186/s13059-015-0623-3, Dimensions: pub.1051567373, PMC: PMC4414376, PMID: 25908251,


Sadd, Ben Michael * (1) (2)
Waterhouse, Robert Michael (15) (16) (17) (18)
Camara, Francisco (20) (21)
Guigó, Roderic (20) (21)
Mariotti, Marco (20) (21)
Amdam, Gro Vang (9) (25)
Biewer, Matthias (11) (28)
Fuchikawa, Taro (4) (39)
Yu, Nuo (5)
Zdobnov, Evgeny M (17) (18)
Ngo, Robin (53)
Fouks, Bertrand (14) (50)
Liu, Jisheng (5) (57)
Qu, Jiaxin (53)

* Corresponding author



  1. (1) Illinois State University, grid.257310.2
  2. (2) ETH Zurich, grid.5801.c
  3. (3) East Carolina University, grid.255364.3
  4. (4) Hebrew University of Jerusalem, grid.9619.7
  5. (5) Ghent University, grid.5342.0
  6. (6) University of Otago, grid.29980.3a
  7. (7) University of Missouri, grid.134936.a
  8. (8) Georgetown University, grid.213910.8
  9. (9) Arizona State University, grid.215654.1
  10. (10) University of Copenhagen, grid.5254.6, KU
  11. (11) University of Hohenheim, grid.9464.f
  12. (12) University of Alabama, grid.411015.0
  13. (13) University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, grid.35403.31
  14. (14) Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, grid.9018.0
  15. (15) Broad Institute, grid.66859.34
  16. (16) Massachusetts Institute of Technology, grid.116068.8
  17. (17) Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics, grid.419765.8
  18. (18) University of Geneva, grid.8591.5
  19. (19) Westfalian Wilhelms University, Institute of Evolution and Biodiversity, Huefferstrasse 1, 48149, Muenster, Germany
  20. (20) Centre for Genomic Regulation, grid.11478.3b
  21. (21) Pompeu Fabra University, grid.5612.0
  22. (22) University of Greifswald, grid.5603.0
  23. (23) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, grid.184769.5
  24. (24) National Center for Biotechnology Information, grid.419234.9
  25. (25) Department of Chemistry, Biotechnology and Food Science, Norwegian University of Food Science, N-1432, Aas, Norway
  26. (26) University of East Anglia, grid.8273.e
  27. (27) Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, grid.411327.2
  28. (28) University of Cologne, grid.6190.e
  29. (29) Universidade de São Paulo, grid.11899.38
  30. (30) University of Edinburgh, grid.4305.2
  31. (31) Royal Holloway University of London, grid.4970.a
  32. (32) National University of Ireland, Maynooth, grid.95004.38
  33. (33) University of Bristol, grid.5337.2
  34. (34) Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, grid.1016.6
  35. (35) Trinity College Dublin, grid.8217.c
  36. (36) Zoological Society of London, grid.20419.3e
  37. (37) Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, grid.507312.2
  38. (38) North Carolina State University, grid.40803.3f
  39. (39) Kyoto University, grid.258799.8
  40. (40) Instituto Federal de Educação, Ciência e Tecnologia de São Paulo, 15991-502, Matão, Brazil
  41. (41) The Ohio State University, grid.261331.4
  42. (42) Oxford Brookes University, grid.7628.b
  43. (43) Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, grid.440701.6
  44. (44) University Hospital in Halle, grid.461820.9
  45. (45) German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, grid.421064.5
  46. (46) University of Southampton, grid.5491.9
  47. (47) University of Leicester, grid.9918.9
  48. (48) Federal University of São Carlos, grid.411247.5
  49. (49) Sao Paulo State University, grid.410543.7
  50. (50) University of North Carolina at Greensboro, grid.266860.c
  51. (51) National Centre of Scientific Research Demokritos, grid.6083.d
  52. (52) Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, grid.5252.0
  53. (53) Baylor College of Medicine, grid.39382.33
  54. (54) The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, grid.240145.6
  55. (55) University of Chicago, grid.170205.1
  56. (56) Queen Mary University of London, grid.4868.2
  57. (57) Guangzhou University, grid.411863.9
  58. (58) Johns Hopkins University, grid.21107.35


BACKGROUND: The shift from solitary to social behavior is one of the major evolutionary transitions. Primitively eusocial bumblebees are uniquely placed to illuminate the evolution of highly eusocial insect societies. Bumblebees are also invaluable natural and agricultural pollinators, and there is widespread concern over recent population declines in some species. High-quality genomic data will inform key aspects of bumblebee biology, including susceptibility to implicated population viability threats. RESULTS: We report the high quality draft genome sequences of Bombus terrestris and Bombus impatiens, two ecologically dominant bumblebees and widely utilized study species. Comparing these new genomes to those of the highly eusocial honeybee Apis mellifera and other Hymenoptera, we identify deeply conserved similarities, as well as novelties key to the biology of these organisms. Some honeybee genome features thought to underpin advanced eusociality are also present in bumblebees, indicating an earlier evolution in the bee lineage. Xenobiotic detoxification and immune genes are similarly depauperate in bumblebees and honeybees, and multiple categories of genes linked to social organization, including development and behavior, show high conservation. Key differences identified include a bias in bumblebee chemoreception towards gustation from olfaction, and striking differences in microRNAs, potentially responsible for gene regulation underlying social and other traits. CONCLUSIONS: These two bumblebee genomes provide a foundation for post-genomic research on these key pollinators and insect societies. Overall, gene repertoires suggest that the route to advanced eusociality in bees was mediated by many small changes in many genes and processes, and not by notable expansion or depauperation.


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