Evolution of sex

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In this project we will determine why honey bee queens don’t clone themselves but choose to reproduce sexually


Professor Ben Oldroyd, Professor Madeleine Beekman

Research Location

School of Biological Sciences

Program Type



Sex is costly. There the cost of finding a mate and the genome of your offspring is shared with your mating partner.  Far better to clone yourself if you can, and yet sex is almost ubiquitous among animals.  The benefits of sex may include the prevention of inbreeding and generating variable offspring. Testing these ideas requires a model system where individuals can chose to reproduce sexually or asexually.  This project will explore a unique population of honey bees from South Africa where a genetic mutation allows queens to clone themselves or reproduce sexually. This ability relies on an unusual meiosis in which two maternal nuclei fuse as if one acted as a sperm. The project will explain how queen eggs can eliminate male genomes and thus allow a queen to clone herself, and how the queen can have control of the meiosis that occurs in her eggs even after they are laid.

Additional Information

This project will involve field work in South Africa, artificial insemination of bees, Florescent in situ hybridization of egg chromosomes and population modeling.

Our lab is part of the Behavioural Ecology Research Group within the School of Biological Sciences

The Behaviour and Genetics of Social Insects Lab offers top-up scholarships to PhD students
Our lab is well funded with external research grants and we encourage students to attend national and international conferences. Our students are also encouraged to participate in one of our many international collaborations. We collaborate with researchers in Thailand, South Africa, Sweden, Germany and Japan.

Check our web site (http://sydney.edu.au/science/biology/social_insects/) for current projects and our research interests.

Projects can also be tailored to Honours students.

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Sex, thelytoky, social insects, anarchy, honey bees, eusocial, Apis Evolution, behavioural ecology, cytogenetics, hybrid zones, Molecular Genetics, evolutionary genetics

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 688

Other opportunities with Professor Madeleine Beekman