Molecular and chemical characters to evaluate species status of two cuckoo bumblebees: Bombus barbutellus and Bombus maxillosus (Hymenoptera, Apidae, Bombini)

Systematic Entomology (Impact Factor: 2.88). 01/2011; DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-3113.2011.00576.x

ABSTRACT Many methods, based on morphological, molecular or chemical characters, have been used to address the question of species taxonomic status. Integrative taxonomy aims to define stronger supported taxonomic hypotheses by considering complementary datasets from different characters. By following an integrative approach, the present study includes molecular, chemical and morphological criteria to establish the taxonomic status of two rare and doubtful cuckoo bumblebee taxa: Bombus (Psithyrus) barbutellus and Bombus (Psithyrus) maxillosus. These two sympatric taxa are discriminated by few morphological criteria (mainly wing darkness and hair length). We used these morphological character diagnoses to establish an a priori status of our samples (23 specimens). We developed a combined molecular dataset from one nuclear gene, elongation factor 1α (EF-1α), and one mitochondrial gene, cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI ), spanning 1623 bp, and a chemical dataset of sexual marking pheromones (73 compounds). The molecular data were subjected to maximum-likelihood and Bayesian phylogenetic inference under partitioned model and maximum parsimony. The chemical data were analysed by clustering and the two-group k-means method to test divergences between the two species. The resulting phylogenetic trees show no consistent divergence between the two taxa. Moreover, we found no divergence in the sexual marking pheromones in the clustering and two-group k-means analyses. These converging results support the conspecificity of both taxa. Nonetheless, our determinations using the traditional morphological criteria separated our samples into two taxa. We conclude that the morphological criteria seem to relate to intraspecific variations: B. maxillosus is regarded as a syn.n. of B. barbutellus.

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