The initiation of foraging during the life course of honeybee workers is of central interest to understanding the division of labor in social insects, a central theme in sociobiology and behavioral research. It also provides one of the most complex phenotypic traits in biological systems because of the interaction of various external, social, and individual factors. This study reports on a comprehensive investigation of the genetic architecture of the age of foraging initiation in honeybees. It comprises an estimation of genetic variation, the study of candidate loci, and two complementary quantitative trait loci (QTL) maps using two selected, continually bred lines of honeybees. We conclude that considerable genetic variation exists between the selected lines for this central life history component. The study reveals direct pleiotropic and epistatic effects of candidate loci (including previously identified QTL for foraging behavior). Furthermore, two maps of the honeybee genome were constructed from over 400 AFLP markers. Both maps confirm the extraordinary recombinational size of the honeybee genome. On the basis of these maps, we report four new significant QTL and two more suggestive QTL that influence the initiation of foraging.
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