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Population Genomics Provide Insights into the Evolution and Adaptation of the Eastern Honey Bee (Apis cerana)

Abstract

The mechanisms by which organisms adapt to variable environments are a fundamental question in evolutionary biology and are important to protect important species in response to a changing climate. An interesting candidate to study this question is the honey bee Apis cerana, a keystone pollinator with a wide distribution throughout a large variety of climates, that exhibits rapid dispersal. Here, we resequenced the genome of 180 A. cerana individuals from 18 populations throughout China. Using a population genomics approach, we observed considerable genetic variation in A. cerana. Patterns of genetic differentiation indicate high divergence at the subspecies level, and physical barriers rather than distance are the driving force for population divergence. Estimations of divergence time suggested that the main branches diverged between 300 and 500 Ka. Analyses of the population history revealed a substantial influence of the Earth’s climate on the effective population size of A. cerana, as increased population sizes were observed during warmer periods. Further analyses identified candidate genes under natural selection that are potentially related to honey bee cognition, temperature adaptation, and olfactory. Based on our results, A. cerana may have great potential in response to climate change. Our study provides fundamental knowledge of the evolution and adaptation of A. cerana.

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