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Keywords:

  • approximate Bayesian computation;
  • conservation;
  • invasive species;
  • museum specimens;
  • population bottleneck;
  • re-introduction

Abstract

Four British bumblebee species (Bombus terrestris, Bombus hortorum, Bombus ruderatus and Bombus subterraneus) became established in New Zealand following their introduction at the turn of the last century. Of these, two remain common in the United Kingdom (B. terrestris and B. hortorum), whilst two (B. ruderatus and B. subterraneus) have undergone marked declines, the latter being declared extinct in 2000. The presence of these bumblebees in New Zealand provides an unique system in which four related species have been isolated from their source population for over 100 years, providing a rare opportunity to examine the impacts of an initial bottleneck and introduction to a novel environment on their population genetics. We used microsatellite markers to compare modern populations of B. terrestris, B. hortorum and B. ruderatus in the United Kingdom and New Zealand and to compare museum specimens of British B. subterraneus with the current New Zealand population. We used approximate Bayesian computation to estimate demographic parameters of the introduction history, notably to estimate the number of founders involved in the initial introduction. Species-specific patterns derived from genetic analysis were consistent with the predictions based on the presumed history of these populations; demographic events have left a marked genetic signature on all four species. Approximate Bayesian analyses suggest that the New Zealand population of B. subterraneus may have been founded by as few as two individuals, giving rise to low genetic diversity and marked genetic divergence from the (now extinct) UK population.