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