Mito-nuclear discordance at a mimicry color transition zone in bumble bee Bombus melanopygus

Briana E. Wham, Sarthok Rasique Rahman, Marena Martinez-Correa, Heather M. Hines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


As hybrid zones exhibit selective patterns of gene flow between otherwise distinct lineages, they can be especially valuable for informing processes of microevolution and speciation. The bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, displays two distinct color forms generated by Müllerian mimicry: a northern “Rocky Mountain'’ color form with ferruginous mid-abdominal segments (B. m. melanopygus) and a southern “Pacific'’ form with black mid-abdominal segments (B. m. edwardsii). These morphs meet in a mimetic transition zone in northern California and southern Oregon that is more narrow and transitions further west than comimetic bumble bee species. To understand the historical formation of this mimicry zone, we assessed color distribution data for B. melanopygus from the last 100 years. We then examined gene flow among the color forms in the transition zone by comparing sequences from mitochondrial COI barcode sequences, color-controlling loci, and the rest of the nuclear genome. These data support two geographically distinct mitochondrial haplogroups aligned to the ancestrally ferruginous and black forms that meet within the color transition zone. This clustering is also supported by the nuclear genome, which, while showing strong admixture across individuals, distinguishes individuals most by their mitochondrial haplotype, followed by geography. These data suggest the two lineages most likely were historically isolated, acquired fixed color differences, and then came into secondary contact with ongoing gene flow. The transition zone, however, exhibits asymmetries: mitochondrial haplotypes transition further south than color pattern, and both transition over shorter distances in the south. This system thus demonstrates alternative patterns of gene flow that occur in contact zones, presenting another example of mito-nuclear discordance. Discordant gene flow is inferred to most likely be driven by a combination of mimetic selection, dominance effects, and assortative mating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18151-18168
Number of pages18
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number24
StatePublished - Dec 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


Dive into the research topics of 'Mito-nuclear discordance at a mimicry color transition zone in bumble bee Bombus melanopygus'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this