Conservation Genetics

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 553–572 | Cite as

Population genetics and geometric morphometrics of the Bombus ephippiatus species complex with implications for its use as a commercial pollinator

  • Michelle A. DuennesEmail author
  • Chris Petranek
  • Esteban Pineda Diez de Bonilla
  • Jorge Mérida-Rivas
  • Oscar Martinez-López
  • Philippe Sagot
  • Rémy Vandame
  • Sydney A. Cameron
Research Article


Mexico and Central America are among the most biodiverse regions on Earth, harboring many species with high levels of interpopulation morphological and genetic diversity. The mountainous topography of this region contains isolated sky island habitats that have the potential to promote speciation. This has been studied in vertebrates, yet few studies have examined the phylogeographic and genetic structure of insect species encompassing this region. Here we investigate geographic patterns of genetic and morphological divergence and speciation among widespread populations of the highly polymorphic bumble bee Bombus ephippiatus and its closest relative B. wilmattae. We used DNA sequences from a fragment of cytochrome oxidase I (COI), genotypes for twelve microsatellite markers, and morphometric data from wings to construct a well-supported inference of the divergences among these taxa. We have found complex patterns of genetic isolation and morphological divergence within B. ephippiatus across its geographic range and present evidence that B. ephippiatus comprises multiple independent evolutionary lineages. The pattern of their diversification corresponds to geographic and environmental isolating mechanisms, including the Mexican highlands, the lowlands of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, the Nicaraguan Depression, the patchily distributed volcanic ranges in Nuclear Central America and Pleistocene glacial cycles. These results have important implications for the development and distribution of B. ephippiatus as a commercial pollinator in Mexico and Central America.


Bumble bees Microsatellites Cytochrome oxidase I STRUCTURE GENELAND Species delimitation 



We are grateful to Zachary Cheviron, Kevin Johnson, Ripan Malhi, Zoi Rapti and especially Kyle Parks for helpful comments on the manuscript and Eunice Enríquez for her support in collecting samples from Guatemala.


This study was funded by the Illinois Chapter of Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS), Inc. to M.A. Duennes, Comisión Nacional para el Uso y el Conocimiento de la Biodiversidad (CONABIO Grant JE016) to R. Vandame, Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT Grant 106043) to R. Vandame and the National Science Foundation U.S.-Mexico International Program (award no. 0503834) to S.A. Cameron and J. Nieh.

Supplementary material

10592_2016_903_MOESM1_ESM.docx (81.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 83630 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michelle A. Duennes
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Chris Petranek
    • 1
    • 5
  • Esteban Pineda Diez de Bonilla
    • 2
    • 6
  • Jorge Mérida-Rivas
    • 2
  • Oscar Martinez-López
    • 2
    • 3
  • Philippe Sagot
    • 2
  • Rémy Vandame
    • 2
  • Sydney A. Cameron
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Entomology, School of Integrative BiologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Departamento Agricultura, Sociedad y AmbienteEl Colegio de la Frontera SurSan Cristóbal De Las CasasMexico
  3. 3.Unidad para la Conservación, Uso y Valoración de la Biodiversidad, Centro de Estudios Conservacionistas, Facultad de Ciencias Químicas y FarmaciaUniversidad de San Carlos de GuatemalaCuidad De GuatemalaGuatemala
  4. 4.Department of Entomology, College of Natural and Agricultural SciencesUniversity of California, RiversideRiversideUSA
  5. 5.Department of Zoology & PhysiologyUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  6. 6.Instituto de Ciencias BiológicasUniversidad de Ciencias y Artes de ChiapasTuxtla GutiérrezMexico

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