A77. Zayed, A., L. Packer, J.C. Grixti, L. Ruz, R.E. Owen and H. Toro. 2005. Increased genetic differentiation in a specialist versus a generalist bee: implications for conservation. Conservation Genetics 5:1017-1026.
Abstract: Oligolectic bees are specialists that collect pollen from one or a few closely related species of plants, while polylectic bees are generalists that collect pollen from both related and unrelated species of plants. Because of their more restricted range of floral hosts, it is expected that specialists persist in more isolated populations than do generalists. We present data on the population structure of two closely related bee species sampled from a super abundant floral host in the southern Atacama Desert. Pairwise comparisons of population subdivision over identical distances revealed that the specialist bee had significantly more differentiated populations in comparison to the generalist. Further, populations of the specialist had significantly less genetic variation, measured as observed and expected heterozgyosity, than those of the generalist. Our data support the hypothesis of decreased gene flow among populations of the specialist bee even at equivalent geographic distances. The resulting reductions in effective population size for specialists make them particularly prone to extinction due to both demographic and genetic reasons. Our findings have important implications for the conservation of bees and other specialist insects.