Conservation Genetics

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 267–278 | Cite as

Landscape genetics of a tropical rescue pollinator

  • Rodolfo JafféEmail author
  • Antonio Castilla
  • Nathaniel Pope
  • Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca
  • Jean Paul Metzger
  • Maria Cristina Arias
  • Shalene Jha
Research Article


Pollination services are increasingly threatened by the loss and modification of natural habitats, posing a risk to the maintenance of both native plant biodiversity and agricultural production. In order to safeguard pollination services, it is essential to examine the impacts of habitat degradation on the population dynamics of key pollinators and identify potential “rescue pollinators” capable of persisting in these human-altered landscapes. Using a landscape genetic approach, we assessed the impact of landscape structure on genetic differentiation in the widely-distributed tropical stingless bee Trigona spinipes (Apidae: Meliponini) across agricultural landscape mosaics composed of coffee plantations and Atlantic forest fragments in southeastern Brazil. We genotyped 115 bees at 16 specific and highly polymorphic microsatellite loci, developed using next-generation sequencing. Our results reveal that T. spinipes is capable of dispersing across remarkably long distances, as we did not find genetic differentiation across a 200 km range, nor fine-scale spatial genetic structure. Furthermore, gene flow was not affected by forest cover, land cover, or elevation, indicating that reproductive individuals are able to disperse well through agricultural landscapes and across altitudinal gradients. We also found evidence of a recent population expansion, suggesting that this opportunistic stingless bee is capable of colonizing degraded habitats. Our results thus suggest that T. spinipes can persist in heavily-altered landscapes and can be regarded as a rescue pollinator, potentially compensating for the decline of other native pollinators in degraded tropical landscapes.


Agricultural landscapes Tropical forest cover Gene flow Landscape resistance Pollination services Stingless bees 



We thank Larissa Boesing, Adrian González, Pedro Leite and Fernanda Saturni for help during the collection of bees, Silvia Pedro and Airton Carvalho for the identification of bee specimens, Sónia Andrade for the bioinformatic processing related to the development of microsatellites, the coffee farmers for allowing us access to their farms, and Mr. Marcus Leite for providing logistical support in the field. Funding was provided by FAPESP (RJ: 2012/13200-5 and 2013/23661-2, Interface Project: 2013/23457-6) and an NSF predoctoral fellowship (NP).

Supplementary material

10592_2015_779_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (61 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 60 kb) GeneBank accession numbers and detailed information for all microsatellite loci
10592_2015_779_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (30 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (XLSX 29 kb) Spatial coordinates, final genotypes, land cover legends, and raster resolutions
10592_2015_779_MOESM3_ESM.docx (169 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 169 kb) Correlograms showing the relationship between the different resistance distances
10592_2015_779_MOESM4_ESM.docx (699 kb)
Supplementary material 4 (DOCX 698 kb) STRUCTURE results showing the most likely number of populations represented in our sample (optimal K)
10592_2015_779_MOESM5_ESM.docx (236 kb)
Supplementary material 5 (DOCX 235 kb) Per locus and multi-locus distribution of allele frequencies and BOTTLENECK test for heterozygosity excess
10592_2015_779_MOESM6_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 6 (DOCX 1168 kb) Additional methods and results from the MSVAR analyses
10592_2015_779_MOESM7_ESM.docx (19 kb)
Supplementary material 7 (DOCX 19 kb) Model selection summary and summary statistics of the best alternative MLPE models


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodolfo Jaffé
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Antonio Castilla
    • 3
  • Nathaniel Pope
    • 3
  • Vera Lucia Imperatriz-Fonseca
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jean Paul Metzger
    • 1
  • Maria Cristina Arias
    • 4
  • Shalene Jha
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of EcologyUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Vale Institute of Technology - Sustainable DevelopmentBelémBrazil
  3. 3.Department of Integrative Biology, 401 Biological LaboratoriesUniversity of TexasAustinUSA
  4. 4.Depart of Genetics and Evolutionary BiologyUniversity of São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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