Phylogenetic relationships among bumble bees (Bombus, latreille) inferred from mitochondrial cytochrome b and cytochrome oxidase I sequences

Mol Phylogenet Evol. 2000 Mar;14(3):335-41. doi: 10.1006/mpev.1999.0621.


We conducted a molecular study intending to derive an estimate of the relationships within the genus Bombus (bumble bees) by comparing the mitochondrial cytochrome b and cytochrome oxidase I (COI) genes from 19 species, spanning 10 of approximately 16 European subgenera and 3 subgenera from North and South America. Our trees differ from the most recent classifications of bumble bees. Although bootstrap values for deep branches are low, our sequences show significant data structure and low homoplasy, and all trees share some groups and patterns. In all cases, the subgenus Bombus s. str. clusters among the most derived bumble bees, contrary to other molecular studies. In all trees, B. funebris is the sister taxon of B. robustus, and in five of the six trees, B. wurflenii is the sister taxon to this clade. B. nevadensis is basal to the other species in the analysis of the cytochrome b gene, but appears to be among the most derived according to the analysis of the COI region. The species representing the subgenera Thoracobombus and Fervidobombus are consistently among the earliest diverged. Species that appear in very different positions in different trees are B. nevadensis, B. mesomelas, B. balteatus, and B. hyperboreus. All subgenera with two representatives in our analysis are apparently monophyletic except Fervidobombus, Melanobombus, and Pyrobombus. The groups formed by pocket makers and non-pocket makers within Bombus also appear to be paraphyletic, and therefore some subgenera may not accurately reflect phylogeny.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bees / classification
  • Bees / enzymology*
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Cytochrome b Group / genetics*
  • Electron Transport Complex IV / genetics*
  • Mitochondria / enzymology*
  • Phylogeny
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity


  • Cytochrome b Group
  • Electron Transport Complex IV