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Genetic kin recognition: honey bees discriminate between full and half sisters


The ability of organisms to recognize kin not previously encountered has been demonstrated in monkeys1, mice2, frogs3,16, a sweat bee4,5 and the honey bee6. The environmental and genetic components of recognition are difficult to separate even in controlled conditions. Here we show that the honey bee Apis mellifera discriminates between full and half sisters raised in the same hive, on the same brood comb in neighbouring cells, thus demonstrating a significant genetic component to the recognition process. Besides its ethological implications, this work has implications for the evolution of sterile worker castes in hymenopterans7,10.

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Getz, W., Smith, K. Genetic kin recognition: honey bees discriminate between full and half sisters. Nature 302, 147–148 (1983).

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