Two Colors, One Species: The Case of Melissodes nigroaenea (Apidae: Eucerini), an Important Pollinator of Cotton Fields in Brazil


  • Carolina Grando University of Campinas (Brazil), Penn State University (USA)
  • Nolan David Amon Penn State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Steven J Clough University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
  • Na Guo University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
  • Wei Wei University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA
  • Patricia Azevedo Universidade Estadual Paulista “Julio de Mesquita Filho”, Rio Claro, SP, Brazil; University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil
  • Margarita Maria López-Uribe Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA
  • Maria Imaculada Zucchi Agência Paulista de Tecnologia dos Agronegócios, Pólo Regional Centro-Sul



Cytochrome oxidase I, Bayesian phylogeny, bees, barcoding gap.


Accurate taxonomic delimitation in ecological research is absolutely critical as studies that seek to evaluate levels of biodiversity and qualify human effects on the environment are rapidly undertaken. Coloration is a widely used morphological character for species identification through dichotomous keys. However, taxonomic identification based upon coloration is often unreliable because this character can exhibit high degree of intraspecific variation. In this study, we use a DNA barcoding approach to investigate the interpretation of two color morphs (yellow or dark) in the eucerine bee Melissodes nigroaenea. Our hypothesis is that if significant genetic divergence exists between each morphotype of M. nigroaenea, coloration reflects two distinct evolutionary lineages within this species, which may require taxonomic revision. Our alternative hypothesis is that, if genetic divergence is low between each morphotype of M. nigroaenea, we can attribute this variation to color polymorphism. Our Bayesian phylogenetic reconstruction revealed that both yellow and black individuals clustered together in a highly supported phylogenetic group. Additionally, pairwise genetic distances between M. nigroaenea color morphotypes were lower than 3%. These results indicate that both mesosome color morphs correspond to intraspecific variability within the same evolutionary unit. Together, our results indicate that mesosome coloration is not a reliable character for taxonomic differentiation of these Melissodes species, and that the incorporation of DNA barcoding approaches to taxonomic classification can help resolve some of the problems that originate while relying on purely morphological taxonomy.


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Author Biographies

Carolina Grando, University of Campinas (Brazil), Penn State University (USA)

Instituto de Biologia (University of Campinas), Department of Entomology (Penn State University)

Nolan David Amon, Penn State University, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Department of Entomology (Penn State University), Department of Entomology (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Steven J Clough, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Department of Crop Science

Na Guo, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Department of Crop Science

Wei Wei, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA

Department of Crop Science

Patricia Azevedo, Universidade Estadual Paulista “Julio de Mesquita Filho”, Rio Claro, SP, Brazil; University of Campinas, Campinas, SP, Brazil

Centro de Estudos em Insetos Sociais (Universidade Estadual Paulista "Julio de Mesquita Filho"), Instituto de Biologia (University of Campinas)

Margarita Maria López-Uribe, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA, USA

Department of Entomology

Maria Imaculada Zucchi, Agência Paulista de Tecnologia dos Agronegócios, Pólo Regional Centro-Sul

Agência Paulista de Tecnologia dos Agronegócios, Pólo Regional Centro-Sul, Piracicaba, SP, Brazil 


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How to Cite

Grando, C., Amon, N. D., Clough, S. J., Guo, N., Wei, W., Azevedo, P., López-Uribe, M. M., & Zucchi, M. I. (2018). Two Colors, One Species: The Case of Melissodes nigroaenea (Apidae: Eucerini), an Important Pollinator of Cotton Fields in Brazil. Sociobiology, 65(4), 645–653.



Research Article - Bees