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Evolution of stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) in space and time: Integrating phylogenomics and paleoentomology

Grant number: 21/12082-8
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Master
Effective date (Start): April 01, 2022
Effective date (End): March 31, 2024
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology - Taxonomy of Recent Groups
Principal researcher:Eduardo Andrade Botelho de Almeida
Grantee:Anderson Lepeco
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil


Stingless bees, tribe Meliponini, are among the most ubiquitous bees in tropical regions of the world and currently comprise approximately 550 extant species. These bees are of great importance in the pollination of native plants and crops, and their historical association with modern and ancient human cultures is well known for their cultural and economic relevance. Meliponini is part of the corbiculate bee clade, characterized by the presence of a surface in the form of a basket in the hind leg, used for the transport of floral resources. Although the group is one of the most attractive among bees, there is a persistent gap in knowledge about its taxonomy and systematics. With a relatively abundant fossil record, little has been done to understand the effect of fossil taxa on the estimation of divergence dates between lineages within the tribe. In this proposal, we intend to combine phylogenomic and morphological data with the fossil record to better understand the evolutionary history of stingless bees. Ultraconserved elements ('UCEs') will be sequenced from approximately 150 extant species as a phylogenomic dataset to be combined with a revised morphological matrix of all sequenced terminal taxa. Fossil specimens deposited at the American Museum of Natural History (New York) and at the Universidade Federal do Paraná (Curitiba) will then be analyzed in a tip-dating approach with the combined data generated for the extant taxa. We will use the fossilized birth-death model, and morphological characters will be partitioned according to the homoplasy criterion. We expect to advance our understanding of the history and biogeography of the group and to explore the combination of phylogenomic data with fossils for the divergence time estimation.

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