Sunday, 23 June 2013

Understanding Haplodiploidy

A few facts about bees, wasps and ants...

  • 98% of social bees, ants and wasps are (technically) female (workers are usually sterile).
  • The queen can select the sex of any given egg at the time of laying.
  • The sperm of a drone (male bee/wasp) contains his entire genetic code, unlike human sperm, which contains half of the father's DNA.
  • Serious genetic defects and deleterious mutations rarely survive more than a generation, as there is no such thing as a "recessive gene" when it comes to a drone.
  • Males have no father, but they have a grandfather.
  • Sister bees, wasps and ants share on average, 3/4 of their genes, unlike humans where 1/2 of genes are shared between siblings.

Haplodiploidy is a sexual reproduction and sex-determination system, where individuals with two sets of chromosomes (diploid) are female, while individuals with one set of chromosomes (haploid) are male. In other words, the biological sex of the offspring depends upon whether the egg was fertilised with sperm from a father, or not.

In other words, female honeybees (queens and workers) have 32 chromosomes, while drones (males) have 16.

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