Phylogenetic analysis of honey bee behavioral evolution

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2007 May;43(2):543-52. doi: 10.1016/j.ympev.2006.10.013. Epub 2006 Oct 20.


DNA sequences from three mitochondrial (rrnL, cox2, nad2) and one nuclear gene (itpr) from all 9 known honey bee species (Apis), a 10th possible species, Apis dorsata binghami, and three outgroup species (Bombus terrestris, Melipona bicolor and Trigona fimbriata) were used to infer Apis phylogenetic relationships using Bayesian analysis. The dwarf honey bees were confirmed as basal, and the giant and cavity-nesting species to be monophyletic. All nodes were strongly supported except that grouping Apis cerana with A. nigrocincta. Two thousand post-burnin trees from the phylogenetic analysis were used in a Bayesian comparative analysis to explore the evolution of dance type, nest structure, comb structure and dance sound within Apis. The ancestral honey bee species was inferred with high support to have nested in the open, and to have more likely than not had a silent vertical waggle dance and a single comb. The common ancestor of the giant and cavity-dwelling bees is strongly inferred to have had a buzzing vertical directional dance. All pairwise combinations of characters showed strong association, but the multiple comparisons problem reduces the ability to infer associations between states between characters. Nevertheless, a buzzing dance is significantly associated with cavity-nesting, several vertical combs, and dancing vertically, a horizontal dance is significantly associated with a nest with a single comb wrapped around the support, and open nesting with a single pendant comb and a silent waggle dance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Bees / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution*
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics
  • Genes, Insect
  • Genetic Variation
  • Phylogeny*


  • DNA, Mitochondrial
  • Electron Transport Complex IV