Bumble bees (Bombus Latreille) are an important group of social insects, well recognized throughout northern temperate regions as important pollinators of wild and agricultural plants. Little is known about the biology of this group in southern portions of the Americas, especially in Mesoamerica, a region of geological and ecological complexity from Mexico through Central America. One ubiquitous Mesoamerican species, Bombus ephippiatus, is enigmatic. Like many other Bombus, this species is homogeneous in body structure yet exhibits striking intraspecific color pattern polymorphism across its range, leading to uncertainty about its genealogical boundaries. It has been grouped taxonomically with B. wilmattae, a species narrowly restricted to southern Mexico and northern Guatamala. Furthermore, the relationships between these two taxa and a third species, B. impatiens, found only in America north of Mexico, have been controversial. Our phylogenetic analysis of DNA sequences from mitochondrial COI and nuclear PEPCK and CAD resolves the phylogeny of these three taxa as (B. impatiens, (B. ephippiatus, B. wilmattae)). Additional data from eight nuclear microsatellite markers reveal complex patterns of genetic divergence and isolation among populations of B. ephippiatus across its extensive geographic range, providing evidence for multiple independent evolutionary lineages. These lineages correspond not only to geographic and habitat variation across their range, but also to distinct color pattern groups present in the species. Knowledge of the phylogeny and genetic divergence of the B. ephippiatus group will provide a framework for understanding evolutionary and ecological origins of color pattern polymorphism in bumble bees, as well as providing insight into geographical factors enhancing speciation in Mesoamerica. © 2012 Elsevier Inc.
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