Investigating how species coped with past environmental changes informs how modern species might face human-induced global changes, notably via the study of historical extinction, a dominant feature that has shaped current biodiversity patterns. The genus Bombus, which comprises 250 mostly cold-adapted species, is an iconic insect group sensitive to current global changes. Through a combination of habitat loss, pathogens and climate change, bumblebees have experienced major population declines, and several species are threatened with extinction. Using a time-calibrated tree of Bombus, we analyse their diversification dynamics and test hypotheses about the role of extinction during major environmental changes in their evolutionary history. These analyses support a history of fluctuating species dynamics with two periods of historical species loss in bumblebees. Dating estimates gauge that one of these events started after the middle Miocene climatic optimum and one during the early Pliocene. Both periods are coincident with global climate change that may have extirpated Bombus species. Interestingly, bumblebees experienced high diversification rates during the Plio-Pleistocene glaciations. We also found evidence for a major species loss in the past one million years that may be continuing today.
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