Genetic and phenotypic differentiation in endemic Scaptotrigona hellwegeri (Apidae: Meliponini): implications for the conservation of stingless bee populations in contrasting environments

Authors

  • JOSE JAVIER G. QUEZADA-EUÁN,

    1. Departamento de Apicultura-Campus de Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Yucatán, México
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  • WILLIAM de J. MAY-ITZÁ,

    1. Departamento de Apicultura-Campus de Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Yucatán, México
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  • MANUEL RINCÓN,

    1. Departamento de Apicultura-Campus de Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, Mérida, Yucatán, México
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  • PILAR DE LA RÚA,

    1. Área de Biología Animal, Dpto. de Zoología y Antropología Física, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad de Murcia, Murcia, Spain
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  • ROBERT J. PAXTON

    1. School of Biological Sciences, Queen′s University Belfast, Belfast, UK
    2. Institute for Biology, Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany
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Jose Javier G. Quezada-Euán, Departamento de Apicultura-Campus de Ciencias Biológicas y Agropecuarias, Universidad Autónoma de Yucatán, A.P. 4-116, Mérida Yucatán 97100, México. E-mail: qeuan@uady.mx

Abstract

Abstract.  1. The western forests of Mexico are rich in species of stingless bee, possibly a consequence of the diverse habitats found across different altitudes of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt (TMVB) and the Pacific coast (PAC).

2. Scaptotrigona hellwegeri is an example of a stingless bee species found across the TMVB and PAC. It is currently considered a single species. Its TMVB populations have become rare and rapidly impacted by human-modified habitats. Translocation of S. hellwegeri colonies from the PAC tropical lowlands to TMVB subtropical highlands has been considered, as colonies at PAC are more abundant and even used in stingless beekeeping.

3. Morphometric analyses of meristic characters plus genetic analysis at microsatellite loci and sequencing of the cox1 region of mtDNA were used to evaluate phenotypic and genetic differentiation in S. hellwegeri from TMVB and PAC.

4. Significant morphometric differences were detected between S. hellwegeri from TMVB and PAC. Corrected nuclear multilocus F′ST was 0.592 (< 0.01), supporting the view that TMVB and PAC populations are markedly genetically differentiated. A 573 bp sequence of the cox1 region of mtDNA showed six sites of divergence, with sequence divergence between PAC and TMVB populations of 1.1%.

5. Our morphometric and genetic results make evident that S. hellwegeri from TMVB and PAC are significantly differentiated and represent two genetic lineages. An immediate recommendation is to restrict the movement of colonies from the lowland PAC regions to TMVB, where colonies are currently scarce.

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