Coloration is an important phenotypic trait for taxonomic studies and has been widely used for identifying insect species and populations. However, coloration can be a poor diagnostic character for insect species that exhibit high polymorphism in this trait, which can lead to over-splitting of taxonomic units. In orchid bees, color variation has been interpreted by different taxonomists as either polymorphism associated with Müllerian mimicry complexes or diagnostic traits for species identification. Despite this uncertainty, integrative approaches that incorporate multiple independent datasets to test the validity of hair coloration as a character that identifies independent evolutionary units have not been used. Here, we use phylogenomic data from Ultraconserved Elements (UCEs) to explore whether color phenotypes in the widespread orchid bee species complexes Eulaema meriana and Eulaema bombiformis (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Euglossini) correspond to independent lineages or polymorphic trait variation within species. We find that lineages within both species are structured according to geography and that color morphs are generally unassociated with evolutionarily independent groups except for populations located in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. We conclude that there is compelling evidence that E. atleticana and E. niveofasciata are subspecies of E. meriana and E. bombiformis, respectively, and not different species as previously suggested. Therefore, we recognize Eulaema meriana atleticanacomb. n. and Eulaema bombiformis niveofasciatacomb. n. and discuss their morphological characteristics. We make recommendations on the use of color traits for orchid bee taxonomy and discuss the significance of subspecies as evolutionary units relevant for conservation efforts.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Animal Science and Zoology
- Developmental Biology
- Insect Science