I recently had the opportunity to collaborate on another paper about the evolution of eusociality in bees, this time with Beryl Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Jones uses comparative genomics to understand the mechanisms behind social evolution. Eusocial insects exhibit a division of labor among individuals in a colony (queen, workers, soldiers, etc.). Jones' paper in G3: Genes, Genomes, Genetics looks at the developmental transcriptome of a facultatively eusocial bee, Megalopta genalis. This species is a useful study system because it exhibits and range of solitary and eusocial behaviors, whereas many bee species are exclusively solitary or social. By investigating this species, Jones aims to learn more about the underlying genes involved in eusociality.
As an illustrator, my task was to depict a developing bee and also show the tissues where different genes are expressed. For each illustration, I created paintings separately and then compiled them using Adobe Photoshop. For example, the nest was a stand-alone illustration upon which I layered the life stages. One of the most interesting parts of this project for me was painting the bee brain. I previously did not know what a bee's brain looks like, and it was fascinating to see how much of the brain is involved in the bee's sensory organs such as eyes and antennae.
Figure 3. Functional annotation of genes showing differences in expression associated with pairwise transitions between life stages. Terms above transition arrows indicate genes that are more highly expressed in the life stage to the right of the arrow, while terms below the arrow indicate genes that are more highly expressed in the life stage to the left of the transition arrow. Terms in black are PANTHER Pathways, while blue italicized terms are GO-Slim Biological Processes. All terms listed are statistically overrepresented with a Bonferroni-corrected P<0.05. Artistic renderings of different life stages and tissue types are not representative of every sample included in the analysis, and only represent one particular life stage, sex, or tissue. Drawings by Julie Himes.
Here you can see progress shots from very rough sketches into final paintings. The rough sketches give me a sense for composition and allow me to make sure I have the anatomy and proportions correct before transferring the sketches to watercolor paper and adding pen and watercolor to create the final illustration.