Investigating Eusociality in Bees while Trusting the Uncertainty


  • Eduardo A. B. Almeida Universidade de Sao Paulo FFCLRP/USP - Dept.Biologia
  • Diego Sasso Porto Universidade de Sao Paulo FFCLRP/USP - Dept.Biologia



Apini, social behavior, Comparative Biology, divergence time, Meliponina, phylogeny


Phylogenetic hypotheses and estimates of divergence times have already been used to investigate the evolution of social behavior in all lineages of bees. The interpretation of the number of origins of eusocial behavior and the timing these events depends on reliable phylogenetic hypotheses for the clades in which these lineages are nested. Three to six independent origins of eusocial behavior are interpreted to have occurred in bee taxa that differentiated in the Late Cretaceous, or much later in the Paleogene. Only two groups of bees exhibit the behaviors that qualify their members to be considered obligate eusocial, the honey bees (Apina) and the stingless bees (Meliponina). The evolutionary history of corbiculate bees remains uncertain in many respects, but phylogenetic research has been paving the path for comprehensive comparative approaches likely to shed light on the origin of diversity of forms and behaviors of these bees. In total, corbiculate bees encompass about 1000 species, roughly 5% of the described species diversity of bees. These bees are rather heterogeneous in terms of social organization, particularly stingless bees and orchid bees, which display a fascinating range of behavioral variation. Using phylogenetic tools, it has been possible to infer that caste polymorphism, division of labor and other traits of corbiculate bees probably started evolving over 80 million years ago. Phylogenetic hypotheses must be interpreted as more or less uncertain scenarios for studying the biological diversity, but when trusted they can provide powerful tools to investigate the evolution of social behaviors.


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Author Biographies

Eduardo A. B. Almeida, Universidade de Sao Paulo FFCLRP/USP - Dept.Biologia

Associate Professor

Diego Sasso Porto, Universidade de Sao Paulo FFCLRP/USP - Dept.Biologia

Master's student


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How to Cite

Almeida, E. A. B., & Porto, D. S. (2014). Investigating Eusociality in Bees while Trusting the Uncertainty. Sociobiology, 61(4), 355–368.




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