Direct determination of the mutation rate in the bumblebee reveals evidence for weak recombination-associated mutation and an approximate rate constancy in insects

Haoxuan Liu, Yanxiao Jia, Xiaoguang Sun, Dacheng Tian, Laurence D. Hurst, Sihai Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate knowledge of the mutation rate provides a base line for inferring expected rates of evolution, for testing evolutionary hypotheses and for estimation of key parameters. Advances in sequencing technology now permit direct estimates of the mutation rate from sequencing of close relatives. Within insects there have been three prior such estimates, two in nonsocial insects (Drosophila: 2.8× 10-9 per bp per haploid genome per generation; Heliconius: 2.9× 10-9) and one in a social species, the honeybee (3.4× 10-9). Might the honeybee's rate be 20% higher because it has an exceptionally high recombination rate and recombination may be directly or indirectly mutagenicff To address this possibility, we provide a direct estimate of the mutation rate in the bumblebee (Bombus terrestris), this being a close relative of the honeybee but with a much lower recombination rate. We confirm that the crossover rate of the bumblebee is indeed much lower than honeybees (8.7 cM/Mb vs. 37 cM/Mb). Importantly, we find no significant difference in the mutation rates: we estimate for bumblebees a rate of 3.6× 10-9 per haploid genome per generation (95% confidence intervals 2.38× 10-9 and 5.37× 10-9) which is just 5% higher than the estimate that of honeybees. Both genomes have approximately one new mutation per haploid genome per generation. While we find evidence for a direct coupling between recombination and mutation (also seen in honeybees), the effect is so weak as to leave almost no footprint on any between-species differences. The similarity in mutation rates suggests an approximate constancy of the mutation rate in insects.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-130
Number of pages12
JournalMolecular Biology and Evolution
Issue number1
Early online date20 Oct 2016
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017



  • Bee
  • Biased gene conversion
  • Mutation rate
  • Recombination rate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics

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