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Population Genetic Aspects of Pollinator Decline

Laurence Packer, York University
Robin Owen, Mount Royal College and University of Calgary

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Abstract

We reviewed the theory of conservation genetics, with special emphasis on the influence of haplodiploidy and other aspects of bee biology upon conservation genetic parameters. We then investigated the possibility that pollinator decline can be addressed in this way, using two meta-analytical approaches on genetic data from the Hymenoptera and the Lepidoptera. First, we compared levels of heterozygosity between the orders. As has been found previously, the haplodiploid Hymenoptera had markedly lower levels of genetic variation than the Lepidoptera. Bees had even lower levels, and bumble bees, in particular, often seemed almost monomorphic genetically. However, the statistically confounding effects of phylogeny render detailed interpretation of such data difficult. Second, we investigated patterns of gene flow among populations of these insects. Hymenoptera were far more likely to show genetic effects of population fragmentation than are Lepidoptera, even at similar geographic distances between populations. The reduced effective population sizes resulting from haplodiploidy probably contributed to this result. The proportion of species with low levels of gene flow did not vary among the different taxonomic groups within the Hymenoptera.

Key words

bumble bees, effective population size, gene flow, haplodiploidy, heterozygosity, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera, meta-analysis, pollinator decline, population fragmentation, population genetics
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087