Behaviour 2019
Differential gene expression and behavioral diversity of an urban dwelling sweat bee, Halictus ligatus.
Rachel A. Brant, Aimee S. Dunlap. University of Missouri- Saint Louis, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States

Native bees are thriving in densely populated urban areas across the globe, but the mechanisms allowing this trend remain widely unknown. It is well understood that conspecifics residing in differing environments may exhibit disparate behaviors. Our previous work revealed stark differences in the foraging behavior of conspecific bees found in Saint Louis city and at nearby prairies. But behavioral diversity can result from plasticity, genetic differentiation or both. Therefore the goal of this study was to elucidate potential differences in the expression of genes that influence behavior of a native bee residing in an urban city and in natural areas. To assess gene expression, we collected female Halictus ligatus sweat bees from two sites in Saint Louis, Missouri and two prairie conservation areas. We used RNA sequencing to reveal differences in gene expression, concentrating on genes known to influence foraging. Results reveal high levels of expression in a number of genes, including those affecting behaviors we observed previously. We discuss the implications of both behavioral shifts and gene expression in bees, highlighting the impact on bee fitness and pollination success.