Biology Colloquium

Biology Colloquium

Postby cdouglas » Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:33 pm


“Symbionts of Social and Solitary Bees:
A Population Genetic Perspective”

Dr. Quinn S. McFrederick
Patterson Laboratories
University of Texas at Austin

Friday, January 18, 2013
3:00-4:00 PM
Science 11, Room 210

Bees provide important ecosystem and agricultural services, yet many bee populations are in decline. There is some evidence that pathogenic microbes play important roles in honey bee and bumble bee declines, but we know almost nothing about the role of symbionts in the health of wild bees. My research aims to fill this gap. I address evolutionary and ecological questions that have applications for pollinator conservation, such as: (a) How are symbionts acquired? (b) Does host social structure affect symbiont transmission? (c) How do symbionts affect host fitness? I use a combination of population genetics, phylogenetics, next-generation sequencing analyses, and experimentation to answer these questions.
I have found that putatively beneficial bacteria are acquired by wild bees from flowers, which is in contrast to honey bees and bumble bees, which associate with host-specific bacteria. It has been proposed that social transmission maintains this host-specifity, but I found that ants that live in massive colonies also obtain putatively beneficial bacteria from the environment. I also found a lack of social transmission of commensal nematodes that associate with sweat bees. I recently started studying bacteria and fungi associated with leafcutting bees, and have identified several possibly beneficial bacteria. My future research will explore how these microbes affect bee health through a combination of population genomics, transcriptomics, and experimentation, and will offer many opportunities for undergraduate and graduate student collaborations.

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