Genus-wide characterization of bumblebee genomes reveals variation associated with key ecological and behavioral traits of pollinators
Gregg W.C. Thomas,
Igor V. Sharakhov,
Semen M. Bondarenko,
Chang N. Kim,
Hugh M. Robertson,
Michael W. Itgen,
Ben M Sadd,
Matthew W. Hahn,
Seth M. Barribeau,
Paul H. Williams,
Robert Michael Waterhouse,
Rachel Lockridge Mueller
Posted 31 May 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.29.122879 (published DOI: 10.1093/molbev/msaa240)
Posted 31 May 2020
Bumblebees are a diverse group of globally important pollinators in natural ecosystems and for agricultural food production. With both eusocial and solitary life-cycle phases, and some social parasite species, they are especially interesting models to understand social evolution, behavior, and ecology. Reports of many species in decline point to pathogen transmission, habitat loss, pesticide usage, and global climate change, as interconnected causes. These threats to bumblebee diversity make our reliance on a handful of well-studied species for agricultural pollination particularly precarious. To broadly sample bumblebee genomic and phenotypic diversity, we de novo sequenced and assembled the genomes of 17 species, representing all 15 subgenera, producing the first genus-wide quantification of genetic and genomic variation potentially underlying key ecological and behavioral traits. The species phylogeny resolves subgenera relationships while incomplete lineage sorting likely drives high levels of gene tree discordance. Five chromosome-level assemblies show a stable 18-chromosome karyotype, with major rearrangements creating 25 chromosomes in social parasites. Differential transposable element activity drives changes in genome sizes, with putative domestications of repetitive sequences influencing gene coding and regulatory potential. Dynamically evolving gene families and signatures of positive selection point to genus-wide variation in processes linked to foraging, diet and metabolism, immunity and detoxification, as well as adaptations for life at high altitudes. These high-quality genomic resources capture natural genetic and phenotypic variation across bumblebees, offering new opportunities to advance our understanding of their remarkable ecological success and to identify and manage current and future threats. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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