Washington, June 21 : An expert at The University of Western Ontario has unearthed strong evidence supporting British biologist Richard Dawkins' concept of the 'selfish gene', which was long accepted as fact decades ago.
Western biology professor Graham Thompson claims that he and Peter Oxley of the University of Sydney in Australia have for the first time isolated a region on the honey bee genome that houses the 'selfish' gene controlling sterility in female workers bees.
He made it clear that the word 'selfish' did not refer to the human-describing adjective of self-centred behaviour, but rather to the blind tendency of genes wanting to continue their existence into the next generation.
In the honeybee colony, he said, the female worker bees are sterile. The adult queen bee is selected by the worker bees, and is left to mate with the male drones.
Just because scientists had not isolated the 'selfish' gene controlling worker sterility ever before, the understand of how reproductive altruism could evolve had been entirely theoretical.
Thompson, however, claims that his team's work now provides strong evidence that the 'selfish' gene does exist, not just in theory but also in reality.
"We don't know exactly which gene it is, but we're getting close," said Thompson, adding that the completion of Honey Bee Genome Project in 2006 was crucial to the discovery.
"This basically provides a validation for a huge body of socio-biology," he said.