Long-distance gene flow and cross-Andean dispersal of lowland rainforest bees (Apidae: Euglossini) revealed by comparative mitochondrial DNA phylogeography

Mol Ecol. 2004 Dec;13(12):3775-85. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2004.02374.x.


Euglossine bees (Apidae; Euglossini) exclusively pollinate hundreds of orchid species and comprise up to 25% of bee species richness in neotropical rainforests. As one of the first studies of comparative phylogeography in a neotropical insect group, we performed a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)-based analysis of 14 euglossine species represented by populations sampled across the Andes and/or across the Amazon basin. The mtDNA divergences within species were consistently low; across the 12 monophyletic species the mean intraspecific divergence among haplotypes was 0.9% (range of means, 0-1.9%). The cytochrome oxidase 1 (CO1) divergence among populations separated by the Andes (N = 11 species) averaged 1.1% (range 0.0-2.0%). The mtDNA CO1 data set displayed homogeneous rates of nucleotide substitution, permitting us to infer dispersal across the cordillera long after the final Andean uplift based on arthropod molecular clocks of 1.2-1.5% divergence per million years. Gene flow across the 3000-km breadth of the Amazon basin was inferred from identical cross-Amazon haplotypes found in five species. Although mtDNA haplotypes for 12 of the 14 euglossine species were monophyletic, a reticulate CO1 phylogeny was recovered in Euglossa cognata and E. mixta, suggesting large ancestral populations and recent speciation. Reference to closely related outgroups suggested recent speciation for the majority of species. Phylogeographical structure across a broad spatial scale is weaker in euglossine bees than in any neotropical group previously examined, and may derive from a combination of Quaternary speciation, population expansion and/or long-distance gene flow.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Composition
  • Base Sequence
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Bees / genetics*
  • Central America
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Mitochondrial / genetics
  • Demography*
  • Evolution, Molecular*
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Geography
  • Geological Phenomena
  • Geology
  • Haplotypes / genetics
  • Likelihood Functions
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • South America


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA, Mitochondrial