Of Aging in Honeybee Workers

Gro V. Amdam and Olav Rueppell

Understanding the control of senescence and lifespan constitutes one of the most intriguing but difficult goals in modern biology. Fully exploring the regulatory architectures of aging will likely require the use of a broad range of animal systems—many of which are not currently regarded as mainstream models in aging research. One such species is the honeybee (Apis mellifera) that is characterized by a facultative aging machinery under social control. Epigenetic regulation is responsible for the differentiation of females into workers and queens—two castes with strongly diverging lifespan potential—and a plastic pattern of worker longevity that appears to be determined by the social colony setting rather than chronological age. Compared to solitary model species, the honeybee is in a prime position to contribute to a deeper understanding of the aging phenomenology in organisms that live in complex social environments.

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