Was Darwin Ever Stung by a Bee?
Living organisms adjust to their environments over generations by means of variation and natural selection. This first became clear to English biologists Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace.
In biology, Charles Darwin's (1809 - 1882) theory of evolution is the fundamental concept for the origin and further development of life on Earth. In the natural sciences, this theory provides an explanation for phenomena such as: biodiversity, interaction between genetic variations brought about by recombinations during sexual reproduction and mutations, and natural selection, i.e. selection of the individuals who are best adapted to their environment.
In Chapter 20 of "Charles Darwin. Die Entstehung der Arten" (English: "Charles Darwin. The Origin of Species") by Paul Wrede and Saskia Wrede (ed.), Jürgen Tautz investigates the honeybee as an "Exemplary Case for Evolutionary Research". With the honeybee, Darwin saw himself confronted with an organism that had the potential to overturn his theory of evolution.
Jürgen Tautz writes, "According to his concept on the evolutionary process, the first requirement is the production of more offspring than is absolutely required for the species to survive. Only if there is an adequate number of offspring and those offspring turn out differently from one another, can the last step of his theory, the selection, actually occur". In the honeybee colony, none of the females, except for the queen bee, produce their own offspring! Thus, it was difficult to reconcile thousands of worker bees with Darwin's theory. Because of this "painful bee sting", he was not only forced to restrict natural selection to individual beings, but also had to expand it to colonies structured like the ones of the altruistic honeybee. In the case of the honeybee, entire colonies compete with one another for the highest number of offspring.
As a super organism that has to regulate its own state of equilibrium, a honeybee colony is more than just the sum of its bees. Tautz explains, "The honeybee colony only functions with the joint actions of all of its members". The competencies that are only available to the bees as a group, such as nest hygiene and ventilation of the comb structure, can be observed live via HOBOS' cameras (www.hobos.de).
Paul Wrede's and Saskia Wrede's (ed.) book "Charles Darwin. Die Entstehung der Arten", published by the WILEY-VCH publishing company, brings together articles in which renowned biologists explain Darwin's influence on various disciplines of biology. It is illustrated and contains explanations that facilitate understanding. Furthermore, you can also find the ground-breaking publications of Alfred Russel Wallace on speciation in this bo
Go to the chapter by Jürgen Tautz: "The Honeybee - from 'Darwin's Intellectual Bee
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