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    Colour Patterns Do Not Diagnose Species: Quantitative Evaluation of a DNA Barcoded Cryptic Bumblebee Complex

    Carolan, James C. and Murray, Tomas E. and Fitzpatrick, Una and Crossley, John and Schmidt, Hans and Cederberg, Bjorn and McNally, Luke and Paxton, Robert J. and Williams, Paul H. and Brown, Mark J.F. (2012) Colour Patterns Do Not Diagnose Species: Quantitative Evaluation of a DNA Barcoded Cryptic Bumblebee Complex. PLoS ONE, 7 (1). e29251. ISSN 1932-6203

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    Cryptic diversity within bumblebees (Bombus) has the potential to undermine crucial conservation efforts designed to reverse the observed decline in many bumblebee species worldwide. Central to such efforts is the ability to correctly recognise and diagnose species. The B. lucorum complex (Bombus lucorum, B. cryptarum and B. magnus) comprises one of the most abundant and important group of wild plant and crop pollinators in northern Europe. Although the workers of these species are notoriously difficult to diagnose morphologically, it has been claimed that queens are readily diagnosable from morphological characters. Here we assess the value of colour-pattern characters in species identification of DNA barcoded queens from the B. lucorum complex. Three distinct molecular operational taxonomic units were identified each representing one species. However, no uniquely diagnostic colour-pattern character state was found for any of these three molecular units and most colour-pattern characters showed continuous variation among the units. All characters previously deemed to be unique and diagnostic for one species were displayed by specimens molecularly identified as a different species. These results presented here raise questions on the reliability of species determinations in previous studies and highlights the benefits of implementing DNA barcoding prior to ecological, taxonomic and conservation studies of these important key pollinators.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: © 2012 Carolan et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0029251 . This work was supported by a grant from the Higher Education Authority of Ireland ( as part of its North-South Research Programme for Peace and Reconciliation to RJP and MJFB and a Science Foundation Ireland ( grant EEEOBF131 to MJFB. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
    Keywords: Colour Patterns; Diagnose Species; Quantitative Evaluation; DNA Barcoded Cryptic Bumblebee Complex;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Biology
    Item ID: 3781
    Depositing User: James Carolan
    Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2012 16:01
    Journal or Publication Title: PLoS ONE
    Publisher: Public Library of Science
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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