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Bacillus DNA in Fossil Bees: an Ancient Symbiosis?

We have isolated DNA from the abdominal tissue of four extinct stingless bees in Dominican amber, and conducted PCR amplification targetting the 16S rRNA gene. Our analysis revealed the the sequence was mostly likely derived from Bacillus spp., whose modern representatives are often found on the abdominal tissue of stingless bees.

Jun 20, 1994

Authors: Cano, R.J., Borucki, M.K., Hibgy-Schweitzer, M., Poinar, H.N., Poinar, G.O., and Pollard, K.J.

Applied and environmental Microbiology, Vol. 60, No. 6, June 1994, pp. 2164-2167.


We report here the isolation of DNA from abdominal tissue of four extinct stingless bees (Proplebeia dominicana) in Dominican amber, PCR amplification of a 546-bp fragment of the 16S rRNA gene from Bacillus spp., and their corresponding nucleotide sequences. These sequences were used in basic local alignment search tool searches of nonredundant nucleic acid data bases, and the highest scores were obtained with 16S rRNA sequences from Bacillus spp. Phylogenetic inference analysis by the maximum-likelihood method revealed close phylogenetic relationships of the four presumed ancient Bacillus sequences with Bacillus pumilus, B. firmus, B. subtilis, and B. circulans. These four extant Bacillus spp. are commonly isolated from abdominal tissue of stingless bees. The close phylogenetic association of the extracted DNA sequences with these bee colonizers suggests that a similar bee-Bacillus association existed in the extinct species P. dominicana.

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