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Comparative study of extant and fossil corbiculate bees with emphasis on phylogenetic relationships of Meliponini (Apidae: Apinae)

Grant number: 23/00647-6
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Master's degree
Effective date (Start): May 01, 2023
Effective date (End): July 31, 2023
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Zoology - Taxonomy of Recent Groups
Principal Investigator:Eduardo Andrade Botelho de Almeida
Grantee:Anderson Lepeco
Supervisor: James Michael Carpenter
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciências e Letras de Ribeirão Preto (FFCLRP). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Ribeirão Preto , SP, Brazil
Research place: American Museum of Natural History, United States  
Associated to the scholarship:21/12082-8 - Evolution of stingless bees (Apidae: Meliponini) in space and time: Integrating phylogenomics and paleoentomology, BP.MS


Stingless bees (Meliponini) are key elements of the bee fauna in tropical regions, playing an important role in pollinating native and cultivated plants and relevant historical contact with human societies. The tribe is included within the corbiculate clade, which also includes honey bees, bumblebees, and orchid bees. Hypotheses for the phylogenetic relationships among Meliponini genera and among the corbiculate bee tribes have been proposed based on morphology and molecular data, with results diverging from each other. This may indicate that there is still much progress regarding stingless bee morphology. Phylogenetic hypotheses have heavily impacted our understanding of the evolution of eusociality in Meliponini and associated lineages. In this sense, fossils provide valuable information, since eusociality is inferred for a few fossil lineages which went extinct during the Cenozoic. The fossil record of Meliponini is relatively rich among bees, including Cretotrigona prisca, the oldest bee fossil, which holotype is deposited at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). The aim of this internship project is to visit the AMNH for three months to study fossil and extant corbiculate bees, especially Meliponini, which are not represented in Brazilian institutions. Information about the bees studied at the AMNH will be included in a morphological matrix which, posteriorly, will be combined with phylogenomic data in a total-evidence analysis to reconstruct phylogenetic relationships and divergence dates for the tribe and its closest relatives. Access to fossil and extant stingless bee specimens at the AMNH will significantly improve the taxon sampling of our comparative analyses, allowing for the representation of all supra-specific taxa of Meliponini in resulting phylogenies. Considering the present progress of the candidate's research, over 300 morphological characters will be coded and refined during the three months of this proposed internship. Information gathered is planned to be included in at least three publications planned to be finished until the end of the Master's degree. (AU)

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