Genetic differentiation of continental and island populations of Bombus terrestris (Hymenoptera: Apidae) in Europe


  • This work is part of the PhD of Amaud Estoup devoted to population genetics and sociobiology of Apis and Bombus bees using molecular approaches. Michel Solignac and Jean-Marie Comuet are involved in the study of biodiversity and molecular evolution of honey bee. Jerome Goudet's research focuses on the modelling of metapopulations. Adolf Scholl is studying population biology and one of his main interests concerns bumble bees systematics.

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Ten microsatellite loci and a partial sequence of the COII mitochondrial gene were used to investigate genetic differentiation in B. terrestris, a bumble bee of interest for its high-value crop pollination. The analysis included eight populations from the European continent, five from Mediterranean islands (six subspecies altogether) and one from Tenerife (initially described as a colour form of B. terrestris but recently considered as a separate species, B. canariensis). Eight of the 10 microsatellite loci displayed high levels of polymorphism in most populations. In B. terrestris populations, the total number of alleles detected per polymorphic locus ranged from 3 to 16, with observed allelic diversity from 3.8 ± 0.5 to 6.5 ± 1.4 and average calculated heterozygosities from 0.41 ± 0.09 to 0.65 ± 0.07. B. canariensis showed a significantly lower average calculated heterozygosity (0.12 ± 0.08) and observed allelic diversity (1.5 ± 0.04) as compared to both continental and island populations of B. terrestris. No significant differentiation was found among populations of B. terrestris from the European continent. In contrast, island populations were all significantly and most of them strongly differentiated from continental populations. B. terrestris mitochondrial DNA is characterized by a low nucleotide diversity: 0.18%± 0.07%, 0.20%± 0.04% and 0.27%± 0.04% for the continental populations, the island populations and all populations together, respectively. The only haplotype found in the Tenerife population differs by a single nucleotide substitution from the most common continental haplotype of B. terrestris. This situation, identical to that of Tyrrhenian islands populations and quite different from that of B. lucorum (15 substitutions between terrestris and lucorum mtDNA) casts doubts on the species status of B. canariensis. The large genetic distance between the Tenerife and B. terrestris populations estimated from microsatellite data result, most probably, from a severe bottleneck in the Canary island population. Microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA data call for the protection of the island populations of B. terrestris against importation of bumble bees of foreign origin which are used as crop pollinators.