Erin Krichilsky is a research assistant at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama. In 2018 she examined a unique sweat bee that appeared to be male on one side, and female on the other side -divided exactly in half like a side show performer, but without the costume. This was a gynandromorph, which is so rare that this is only the second gynandromorph bee found in 20 years.
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In humans, biological sex is determined by two sex chromosomes—one from mom and one from dad. Inheriting two X’s yields a female, while an X paired with a Y creates a male. But bees do things a little differently. All fertilized eggs, which carry genetic material from a mother and a father, hatch female bees. Unfertilized eggs, however, can still yield offspring: fatherless males that carry only one set of chromosomes from their mothers—half of what’s found in females. Sex, in other words, is determined by the quantity of genetic information in a bee’s cells.
That’s very weird in itself, but bees might consider the way humans do it to be very weird. Scientists have a couple of different theories as to the genetic mishap that caused the gynandromorph bee. They also did a behavioral study of Krichilsky’s bee, still alive when it was discovered, which you can read about at Smithsonian.
(Image credit: Chelsey Ritner/Utah State University)