Ageing in a eusocial insect

Molecular and physiological characteristics of life span plasticity in the honey bee

D. Münch, Gro Amdam, F. Wolschin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

76 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. Commonly held views assume that ageing, or senescence, represents an inevitable, passive, and random decline in function that is strongly linked to chronological age. In recent years, genetic intervention of life span regulating pathways, for example, in Drosophila as well as case studies in non-classical animal models, have provided compelling evidence to challenge these views. 2. Rather than comprehensively revisiting studies on the established genetic model systems of ageing, we here focus on an alternative model organism with a wild type (unselected genotype) characterized by a unique diversity in longevity - the honey bee. 3. Honey bee (Apis mellifera) life span varies from a few weeks to more than 2 years. This plasticity is largely controlled by environmental factors. Thereby, although individuals are closely related genetically, distinct life histories can emerge as a function of social environmental change. 4. Another remarkable feature of the honey bee is the occurrence of reverted behavioural ontogeny in the worker (female helper) caste. This behavioural peculiarity is associated with alterations in somatic maintenance functions that are indicative of reverted senescence. Thus, although intraspecific variation in organismal life span is not uncommon, the honey bee holds great promise for gaining insights into regulatory pathways that can shape the time-course of ageing by delaying, halting or even reversing processes of senescence. These aspects provide the setting of our review. 5. We will highlight comparative findings from Drosophila melanogaster and Caenorhabditis elegans in particular, and focus on knowledge spanning from molecular- to behavioural-senescence to elucidate how the honey bee can contribute to novel insights into regulatory mechanisms that underlie plasticity and robustness or irreversibility in ageing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)407-421
Number of pages15
JournalFunctional Ecology
Volume22
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2008

Fingerprint

honey
bee
honey bees
plasticity
senescence
insect
insects
caste
intraspecific variation
Caenorhabditis elegans
ontogeny
Apis mellifera
Drosophila melanogaster
Drosophila
environmental change
genotype
life history
environmental factor
animal models
case studies

Keywords

  • Insulin
  • Juvenile hormone
  • Longevity
  • Senescence
  • Social behaviour
  • Vitellogenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology

Cite this

Ageing in a eusocial insect : Molecular and physiological characteristics of life span plasticity in the honey bee. / Münch, D.; Amdam, Gro; Wolschin, F.

In: Functional Ecology, Vol. 22, No. 3, 06.2008, p. 407-421.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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