Honey Bees. Apis spp., are highly social Bees extensively domesticated by Humans for their Honey and Wax, which also makes them the most extensively studied Bee group. They have a fossil record dating back to the Oligocene, and like other social Bees, their fossils are much more abundant than those of solitary Bees, probably due to their higher population levels. Honey Bees today are native to Eurasia and Africa, however almost all known fossil Honey Bees are known from Europe, with Asian specimens being much more rare.
In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 19 July 2018, Michael Engel of the Division of Entomology at the Natural History Museum of the University of Kansas, the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, also at the University of Kansas, and the Division of Invertebrate Zoology at the American Museum of Natural History, Bo Wang of the State Key Laboratory of Palaeobiology and Stratigraphy at the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, and the Key Laboratory of Zoological Systematics and Evolution of the Institute of Zoology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Abdulaziz Alqarni of the Department of Plant Protection at King Saud University, Lin-Bo Jia of the Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia at the Kunming Institute of Botany, Tao Su of the Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Zhe-kun Zhou, also of the Key Laboratory for Plant Diversity and Biogeography of East Asia at the Kunming Institute of Botany, and the Key Laboratory of Tropical Forest Ecology at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, and Torsten Wappler of the Natural History Department at the Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt, describe a new species of Honey Bee from the Huazhige Formation of the northwestern Maguan Basin in Maguan County of Yunnan Province, China.
The Huazhige Formation is a finely laminated grey and yellow siltstone and mudstone deposit laid down in a lake bed between 16.5 and 15.2 million years ago (i.e. during the Middle Miocene). This formation has produced numerous fossil Insects, Fish, Birds and Plants, which are interpreted as having come from a subtropical evergreen forest with a warm and wet environment.
The new Bee species is named Apis dalica, in reference to the Medieval Dali Kingdom, which occupied roughly the same territory as Yunnan Province between 937 and 1253 (when it was invaded by a Mongol army under Kublai Khan). The species is described from a single Worker Bee preserved with its underside showing, this is 17.06 mm in length, and charcoal black in colour. Little detail of the head, body and legs are preserved, but the wings are clearly visible, allowing comparison to other Bees, fossil and extant. This is the first fossil Honey Bee from South China.
Worker of Apis dalica, from Maguan County, southeastern Yunnan Province, China. (4) Entire specimen as preserved. (5) Reconstruction of wing venation; forewing above, hind wing below. (6) Detail of foreleg. (7) Detail of apical sterna. Abbreviations: ppl, propleuron; mcx mesocoxa; tr, trochanter; fm, femur; tb, tibia. Engel et al. (2018).
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