Sometimes, serendipity arrives on the wings of disease. It was colony collapse disorder (CCD), a mysterious condition that hit honeybee hives in autumn 2006, that brought bees to the laboratory of evolutionary biologist Nancy Moran. Moran, working at the time at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, had been studying microbes that live inside aphids and leafhoppers since the early 1990s. Owing to her knowledge of insect-associated bacteria, she was brought in by a team of genome sleuths to analyse RNA samples from sick honeybees. The quest yielded no culprit for CCD, but Moran was surprised to find that whether the bees were healthy or ill, their hindgut (equivalent to the mammalian intestine and rectum) carried a characteristic handful of species that make up 99% of the gut microbial population. “Every single bee had the same bacteria,” says Moran, who is now at the University of Texas at Austin.
[Read more at Nature Outlook // May 21, 2015]