Ecological niche overlap in sister species: how do oil-collecting bees Macropis europaea and Macropis fulvipes (Hymenoptera: Melittidae) avoid hybridization and competition?
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- Bassin, L., Alvarez, N., Pellissier, L. et al. Apidologie (2011) 42: 579. doi:10.1007/s13592-011-0067-z
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Oil-collecting bees are found worldwide and always in association with particular oil-producing flowers. In the Western Palearctic, three oil-collecting bee species within the genus Macropis (Hymenoptera, Melittidae) interact in a tight pollination mutualism with species of the only European oil-producing plant genus Lysimachia L. (Myrsinaceae). Two of these oil-collecting bees (Macropis europaea and Macropis fulvipes) show overlapping geographic distributions, comparable morphologies, and similar ecological characteristics (e.g., habitat type, floral preferences). In view of these similarities, we presume that hybridization should occur between the two species unless potential variation among the species’ ecological niches prevents it, simultaneously decreasing competition for resources. Using modern genetic analyses and ecological niche modeling on a large bee sampling throughout Europe, we discuss new perspectives on the ecology and evolutionary history of this mutualism.