Bees 311 Phil Hawkins/Bloomberg.
(photo credit: Phil Hawkins/Bloomberg)
As any shift worker or new mother can testify, it is very difficult to shift
one’s biological clock from its normal day-and-night cycle to something less
Disturbance of the biological clock can also contribute to mood
disorders. On a less severe scale, international air travelers all know of the
“jet lag” caused by traveling across several time zones.
But honey bees –
when thrown into highly time-altered new roles – are able to alter their
biological rhythms with alacrity, enabling them to make a successful “quick
switch” in their daily routines, according to research carried out at the Hebrew
University of Jerusalem. Bees have now been shown to be highly resilient to such
change. When removed from their usual roles in the hive, the bees were seen to
quickly and drastically change their biological rhythms, according to a study by
Prof. Guy Bloch of HU’s department of ecology, evolution and behavior at the
Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences. His research is published in the
latest edition of The Journal of Neuroscience. The research was supported by the
Israel Science Foundation, the Israel-US Binational Science Foundation and the
German Israel Foundation.
The changes, he found, were evident in both the
bees’ behavior and in the “clock genes” that drive their internal biological
clocks. These findings indicate that social environment had a significant effect
on the physiology of their behavior.
Circadian rhythm, the body’s
“internal clock,” regulates daily functions. A few “clock genes” control many
actions, including the time of sleeping, eating and drinking, temperature
regulation and hormone fluctuations.
However, exactly how that clock is
affected by – and affects – social interactions with other animals is
Bloch and his colleagues Dr. Yair Shemesh, Ada Eban- Rothschild
and Mira Cohen chose to study bees in part because of their complex social
environment. One role in bee society is the “nurse” – bees that are busy round
the clock caring for larvae. This activity is different from other bees and
animals, whose levels rise and fall throughout the day. The researchers thought
that changing the nurse bees’ social environment might alter their activity
levels, so they separated them from their larvae. The researchers found that the
bees’ cellular rhythms and behavior completely changed, matching a more typical
circadian cycle. The opposite also was true, when other bees were transferred
into a nursing function.
“Our findings show that circadian rhythms of
honey bees are altered by signals from the brood that are transferred by close
or direct contact,” Bloch said. “This flexibility in the bees’ clock is
striking, given that humans and most other animals studied cannot sustain long
periods of around-the-clock activity without deterioration in performance and an
increase in disease.”
Because bees and mammals’ circadian clocks are
similarly organized, the question arises as to whether the clocks of other
animals also strongly depend on their social environments. The next step is to
find just how social exchanges influence gene expressions. Further research into
this question may have implications for humans who suffer from disturbances in
their behavioral, sleeping and waking cycles.YU AND BIU
University in Ramat Gan is now offering a unique summer internship program to
students enrolled at New York’s Yeshiva University (YU). The first-of-its-kind
program will enable talented undergraduate science majors to work in the
research group of one of Bar-Ilan’s more than 180 distinguished faculty members
in the biological and/or physical sciences.
The program was established
to take advantage of the many advanced research capabilities that have been
developed at BIU in the past three to five years. Prof.
the program’s founder and acting director, says it’s important for American
students to see the high level of scientific research taking place here in
general, and at Bar-Ilan in particular. “We want to afford YU students the
opportunity to be involved in cutting-edge research and to understand the
special relationship that exists between scientific excellence and the values
common to both,” he says.
Select undergraduates from Yeshiva College (for
men) and Stern College (for women) will be placed in one of BIU’s research labs
in the Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences or Faculty of Exact Sciences. Matching
of students to specific research labs will be based on both their credentials
and interests, as well as the expertise needed for particular lab
The deadline application is Friday, January 21, 2011, while the
program will begin next June and provide students with up to an eight-week
Students will be housed at YU’s Gruss Institute in
Jerusalem (with daily transportation to be provided between Gruss and Bar-Ilan).