Quito, Aug 30 (EFE) .- The state National Institute of Biodiversity (Inabio) of Ecuador announced this Monday the discovery in the country of the first case of an androgynous bee, with morphological characteristics of both sexes: half female, half male.
Researchers from Inabio and the Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA, Brazil) reported this first case of “gynandromorphism” in the orchid bee (Eulaema meriana), found in a sector of the Los Ríos province, in the region tropical southeastern Ecuador.
The scientific article on this finding, developed within the framework of a Trilateral Cooperation Project between Germany, Brazil and Ecuador, was published in the prestigious international journal Sociobiology, Inabio said in a statement.
The individual described in that publication “has, for the most part, male features on the left side and female features on the right.”
Thus, the right side of the specimen’s head sports “a large and robust jaw, adorned with a row of teeth,” which is, according to the researchers, a characteristic normally found in a female.
However, “the left half of the insect had the delicate features of a male”, a circumstance that, after “a quick glance at the rest of the body of the bee revealed much of the same”.
This bee is in “a ‘her’ on the right and a ‘he’ on the left,” said the source.
Researchers Alex Pazmiño, from Inabio, and Marcio Oliveira, from INPA, highlighted that “this mysterious insect is an extremely rare gynandromorph, an animal that is anatomically half male and half female, the first found in the Eulaema meriana species, a type of orchid bee native to Central and South America “.
The intersex characteristics of these androgynous individuals can possibly be attributed to abnormalities in embryo development, double fertilization events or genetic errors, the researchers said.
In general, “several hypotheses have been raised in previous research on the origin of this phenomenon in insects,” added Inabio, specifying that the detection of the androgynous individual was possible “due to the marked sexual difference between male and female orchid bees.”
“The males – the study adds – have specialized morphological structures to collect fragrances for reproductive purposes, while the females have structures to collect pollen and maintain their offspring.”
The Inabio report highlighted the fact that, despite the notable morphological differences between bee sexes and the anomalies it presents, the scientific study took more than thirty years since the specimen entered a scientific collection of the Institute.
This delay is due, according to Inabio, to the “remarkable ignorance of the native bee fauna in Ecuador”, which also suggests the importance of continuing with research on “this fantastic group of pollinators.”
The National Institute of Biodiversity is a public institution that seeks to generate knowledge and develop science, technology and innovation required by the Ecuadorian State to guarantee the conservation of its natural heritage.