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Molecular ecology

Nesting habits influence population genetic structure of a bee living in anthropogenic disturbance.


PMID 28214357

Abstract

While most organisms are negatively affected by anthropogenic disturbance, a few species thrive in landscapes altered by humans. Typically, native bees are negatively impacted by anthropogenic environmental change, including habitat alteration and climate change. Here, we investigate the population structure of the eastern carpenter bee Xylocopa virginica, a generalist pollinator with a broad geographic range spanning eastern North America. Eastern carpenter bees now nest almost exclusively in artificial wooden structures, linking their geographic distribution and population structure to human activities and disturbance. To investigate the population structure of these bees, we sampled females from 16 different populations from across their range. Nine species-specific microsatellite loci showed that almost all populations are genetically distinct, but with high levels of genetic diversity and low levels of inbreeding overall. Broadly speaking, populations clustered into three distinct genetic groups: a northern group, a western group and a core group. The northern group had low effective population sizes, decreased genetic variability and the highest levels of inbreeding in the data set, suggesting that carpenter bees may be expanding their range northward. The western group was genetically distinct, but lacked signals of a recent range expansion. Climatic data showed that summer and winter temperatures explained a significant amount of the genetic differentiation seen among populations, while precipitation did not. Our results indicate that X. virginica may be one of the rare 'anthrophilic' species that thrive in the face of anthropogenic disturbance.

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