Extreme Differences in Recombination Rate between the Genomes of a Solitary and a Social Bee

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Molecular Biology and Evolution






Oxford University Press

Publication Date


Award Number

USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) 2018-67014-27542


USDA, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

First Page


Last Page



Social insect genomes exhibit the highest rates of crossing over observed in plants and animals. The evolutionary causes of these extreme rates are unknown. Insight can be gained by comparing recombination rate variation across the genomes of related social and solitary insects. Here, we compare the genomic recombination landscape of the highly social honey bee, Apis mellifera, with the solitary alfalfa leafcutter bee, Megachile rotundata, by analyzing patterns of linkage disequilibrium in population-scale genome sequencing data. We infer that average recombination rates are extremely elevated in A. mellifera compared with M. rotundata. However, our results indicate that similar factors control the distribution of crossovers in the genomes of both species. Recombination rate is significantly reduced in coding regions in both species, with genes inferred to be germline methylated having particularly low rates. Genes with worker-biased patterns of expression in A. mellifera and their orthologs in M. rotundata have higher than average recombination rates in both species, suggesting that selection for higher diversity in genes involved in worker caste functions in social taxa is not the explanation for these elevated rates. Furthermore, we find no evidence that recombination has modulated the efficacy of selection among genes during bee evolution, which does not support the hypothesis that high recombination rates facilitated positive selection for new functions in social insects. Our results indicate that the evolution of sociality in insects likely entailed selection on modifiers that increased recombination rates genome wide, but that the genomic recombination landscape is determined by the same factors.