The press release however, goes way way overboard in interpreting their results and claiming "New Discovery Proves 'Selfish Gene' Exists." They imply throughout the press release that prior work simply suggested that selfish genes were theoretically possible in this case and that now with their results they have been proven. For example they quote the lead author Graham Thompson:
This means that the 'selfish' gene does exist, not just in theory but in reality.This is way beyond an overstatement. Their results are nice and interesting but they are part of a continuum of work on bees (and other selfish systems) and do not in any obvious way suddenly prove the existence of this selfish gene compared to prior work that they imply was just guesswork. I am personally baffled by the extent of this claim -- basically ignoring work by many others as well as work in a variety of systems outside of bees. They end the press release with the following:
"This basically provides a validation for a huge body of socio-biology," says Thompson, who adds the completion of Honey Bee Genome Project in 2006 was crucial to this discovery.For that last statement, I am thus giving them my "Overselling genomics award" #4. But they easily could have gotten a few others.
Hat tip to T. Ryan Gregory for pointing this out. And you should check out his new Genomics by press release "award" at his blog Genomicron. I will probably be writing about the same story soon.