Invertebrate Systematics Invertebrate Systematics Society
Systematics, phylogeny and biogeography

Molecular phylogeny of the bumble bee subgenus Pyrobombus (Hymenoptera : Apidae : Bombus) with insights into gene utility for lower-level analysis

Heather M. Hines A C , Sydney A. Cameron A and Paul H. Williams B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Entomology, 320 Morrill Hall, 505 South Goodwin Ave., University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.

B Department of Entomology, The Natural History Museum, London SW7 5BD, United Kingdom.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Invertebrate Systematics 20(3) 289-303
Submitted: 30 June 2005  Accepted: 15 February 2006   Published: 20 June 2006


Comprising nearly 20% of all bumble bees, the subgenus Pyrobombus is distributed across diverse habitats in the Northern Hemisphere and exhibits considerable morphological and behavioural variation relative to other subgenera. Its size and variation have led to questions concerning its monophyly and intrasubgeneric relationships, but too few known morphological synapomorphies and insufficient taxon sampling have precluded robust answers to these questions. To obtain a robust phylogeny of the group, we obtained DNA sequences for 36 of the 43 species from four genes (mitochondrial 16S rRNA and three nuclear genes: elongation factor – 1α (EF-1α), long wavelength rhodopsin (LW Rh or opsin) and arginine kinase (ArgK)). Both Bayesian and parsimony phylogenies are well resolved and indicate a monophyletic Pyrobombus when assessed against representatives of 20 additional subgenera. The more conserved nuclear genes, especially EF-1α and ArgK, provided good support across all of the taxonomic levels examined, whereas support of the more rapidly evolving mt16S was restricted mostly to close relationships at the tips of the tree. The exon regions of ArgK were the most conserved and may be promising for higher-level phylogenetics. We discuss species relationships within Pyrobombus and its sister-group, Bombus s.s. + Alpinobombus, in relation to previous taxonomic studies.


Special thanks to Pierre Rasmont and Bjorn Cederberg for providing multiple specimens, identifications and guidance. We are also grateful to A. Murat Aytekin, Yvan Barbier, Pierre Rasmont, Michael Terzo, James Whitfield, Chen Xuexin and Tang Ya for providing specimens and help in the field and to the following for providing specimens: J. van Asperen de Boer, Oistein Berg, Won Young Choi, Terry Griswold, Martin Hauser, Randall Hepburn, Kevin Holston, Robin Owen, Claus Rasmussen, Adolf Scholl, Robbin Thorp, Remy Vandame and Natapot Warrit. Thanks to Alice Michel-Salzat, Andy Deans and Sudhakar Pamidighantum for technical assistance and to Kevin Johnson, Gene Robinson and James Whitfield for comments and suggestions. This project was supported by an NRI USDA grant (2002–35302–11553) to S. A. C, the H. H. Ross Memorial award and the Francis M. and Harlie M. Clark grant to H. M. H.


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