Population Ecology

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 243–251

Chance and adaptation in the evolution of island bumblebee behaviour

Review Special Feature: Current topics in pollination ecology

DOI: 10.1007/s10144-004-0180-1

Cite this article as:
Chittka, L., Ings, T.C. & Raine, N.E. Popul Ecol (2004) 46: 243. doi:10.1007/s10144-004-0180-1


We used a population biological approach to assist our understanding of the evolution of behaviour, with island bumblebees as our model system. The widespread European species Bombus terrestris occurs on all major Mediterranean, and some Atlantic islands. Bees from different populations differ in a variety of behavioural traits, including floral colour preferences, flower detection, and learning behaviour. We attempted to correlate these behavioural differences with each population’s environment, but could not find straightforward adaptive explanations. We also performed reciprocal transplant studies to compare nectar foraging performance of bees from three different populations, but found that non-native bees consistently outcompeted native bees. Thus, we consider genetic drift, exaptation, and pleiotropy as possible alternative explanations to a strictly adaptive explanation for between population behavioural differences in bumblebees.


Genetic driftColour visionLearningBody sizeFlight speedFlower colour

Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer-Verlag Tokyo 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lars Chittka
    • 1
  • Thomas C. Ings
    • 1
  • Nigel E. Raine
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Biological Sciences, Queen Mary CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonUK