The genetic basis of a social polymorphism in halictid bees

Sarah D. Kocher, Ricardo Mallarino, Benjamin E.R. Rubin, Douglas W. Yu, Hopi E. Hoekstra, Naomi E. Pierce

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


The emergence of eusociality represents a major evolutionary transition from solitary to group reproduction. The most commonly studied eusocial species, honey bees and ants, represent the behavioral extremes of social evolution but lack close relatives that are non-social. Unlike these species, the halictid bee Lasioglossum albipes produces both solitary and eusocial nests and this intraspecific variation has a genetic basis. Here, we identify genetic variants associated with this polymorphism, including one located in the intron of syntaxin 1a (syx1a), a gene that mediates synaptic vesicle release. We show that this variant can alter gene expression in a pattern consistent with differences between social and solitary bees. Surprisingly, syx1a and several other genes associated with sociality in L. albipes have also been implicated in autism spectrum disorder in humans. Thus, genes underlying behavioral variation in L. albipes may also shape social behaviors across a wide range of taxa, including humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number4338
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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