Navigation Links
2 new bee species are mysterious pieces in the Panama puzzle

Smithsonian scientists have discovered two new, closely related bee species: one from Coiba Island in Panama and another from northern Colombia. Both descended from of a group of stingless bees that originated in the Amazon and moved into Central America, the ancestors of Mayan honeybees. The presence of one of these new species on Coiba and Rancheria Islands, and its absence from the nearby mainland, is a mystery that will ultimately shed light on Panama's history and abundant biodiversity.

At almost 200 square miles, Coiba Island is the largest offshore island along the Pacific coast of Latin America. Rancheria Island is a much smaller neighbor. The species name, insularis, of the new bee from Coiba, Melipona insularis, means "island." This is the first species in its group to be found on islands near the mainland.

"These forest bees have a small range over which they can establish new nests and colonies," says David Roubik, staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. "They can't establish a new nest across more than a short stretch of open water because workers from the original nest have to build and supply the new nest before the new queen moves in."

Either several entire tree-cavity nests arrived on Coiba and Rancheria in floating mats of vegetation or a land connection existed between the island and the mainland before the bees disappeared from the mainland.

Sea level has risen and fallen dramatically in the past. During ice ages, when much of the Earth's water is locked up in polar caps and glaciers, sea level drops in Panama. The sea floor between Coiba and the mainland, and between Coiba and neighboring Rancheria Island where the bee was also found, is never more than about 300 feet below the surface. Five other stingless bee species on Coiba are widespread on the mainland and on many little islands that were connected to the mainland during glaciations. Those bees are relative newcomers that may have arrived during past drops in sea level when the islands were reconnected to the mainland.

Roubik thinks the ancestors of Melipona (Melikerria) ambigua, the new species from Colombia, gave rise both to the new Coiba bee and the honeybees cultivated by Mayans in Mexico and Central America. Even if a drop in sea level explains how the bees got from the mainland to the island, their discovery that the bees had already established in Central America around 17 million years ago spurs an ongoing debate about the age of the connection between North and South America. Traditionally, geologists think that the Panama land bridge arose by tectonic and volcanic action to connect the two continents about 3 million years ago.

"Our studies of the genetic relationships between these bees tells us that they originated in the Amazon about 22 million years ago and that they moved north into Central America before 3 million years ago," said Roubik. "This actually agrees with new evidence that geologists working in the earthworks created by the Panama Canal expansion project are finding. We think that a land bridge may have formed as early as 12 million years ago."

Not only does the age of the continental connection remain unresolved, there are more questions, such as what happened to the bees that used to be on the mainland and are no longer there now?

Panama's wealth of biodiversity may be a direct result of the complicated geological history of the area. Only by combining geological evidence, genetic evidence and observations of how organisms behave and respond to change in natural areas like Coiba National Park, can scientists begin to understand the puzzle that is Panama.


Contact: Beth King
202-633-4700, x28216
Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute

Related biology news :

1. Unknown species and larval stages of extremely long-legged beetles discovered by DNA test
2. Study identifies molecules used by certain species of seaweed to harm corals
3. Genetic study of cave millipedes reveals isolated populations and ancient divergence between species
4. Study shows unexpected effect of climate change on body size for many different species
5. Pragues 88 nature reserves threatened by invasive plant species
6. A living species of aquatic beetle found in 20-million-year-old sediments
7. Australias endangered bettong reveals how weather effects species distribution
8. A new species of fossil silky lacewing insects that lived more than 120 million years ago
9. LSU researchers find impact of oil spill in marsh fish species
10. Location matters: For invasive aquatic species, its better to start upstream
11. New approach challenges old ideas about plant species and biomass
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
2 new bee species are mysterious pieces in the Panama puzzle
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Today, ... a partnership with 2XU, a global leader in ... a smart hat with advanced bio-sensing technology. The ... athletes to monitor key biometrics to improve overall ... partnership, the two companies will bring together the most ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... , Oct. 27, 2015 Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... announced that Google has adopted the Synaptics ® ... solutions to power its newest flagship smartphones, the Nexus ... --> --> ... to provide strategic collaboration in the joint development of ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 26, 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused ... and PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the ... F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in ... second smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a ... F-04G in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , ... November 24, 2015 , ... Whitehouse Laboratories is ... The new stand-alone facility will be strictly dedicated to basic USP 61, USP ... existing clients the chance to have complete chemistry and micro testing performed by one ...
(Date:11/23/2015)...   Ceres, Inc . (Nasdaq: CERE ), ... the fiscal year ended August 31, 2015 and provided ... --> During fiscal year 2015, Ceres ... with a better balance of yield, energy and nutrition. ... several leading crop input providers and made significant progress ...
(Date:11/23/2015)... ... November 23, 2015 , ... Noblis, Inc., a leading provider of science, ... Programs, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA), has joined the Noblis NSP team as President ... in the intelligence community and the private sector,” said L. Roger Mason, Jr., ...
(Date:11/23/2015)... , November 23, 2015 ... $4.27 million in 2015, and it is expected to ... 2023. The factors driving the growth of the global ... carbon sequestration property of biochar, increased government initiatives and ... government initiatives and stringent environment regulations are the key ...
Breaking Biology Technology: