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  1. Cryptic species present challenges across many subdisciplines of biology. Not all “cryptic” species, however, are truly cryptic; many are simply underexplored morphologically. We examined this idea for theAntistrophus rufusspecies complex, which previously contained three species thought to be morphologically cryptic. To determine whether theA. rufuscomplex are truly cryptic species, we assessed species boundaries of members of theA. rufusspecies complex using morphological, ecological, and DNA barcode data, and tested whether a set of 50 morphological characters could adequately diagnose these species. We revealed that this complex includes five species, and that there are useful phenotypic diagnostic characters for all members of this species complex. This enabled redescription of four species and the description ofAntistrophus laurenaeNastasi,sp. nov., which induces externally inconspicuous galls in stems ofSilphium integrifoliumMichx., a host not associated with other members of the complex. We use these new diagnostic characters to construct a key to the five species of therufuscomplex. We conclude that theA. rufuscomplex was not a true case of cryptic species. Our Bayesian analysis of DNA barcode data suggests possible cospeciation of members of therufuscomplex and theirSilphiumhost plants, but further study is necessary to better understand the evolution of host use in the lineage.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available May 21, 2025
  2. Globally, insects have been impacted by climate change, with bumble bees in particular showing range shifts and declining species diversity with global warming. This suggests heat tolerance is a likely factor limiting the distribution and success of these bees. Studies have shown high intraspecific variance in bumble bee thermal tolerance, suggesting biological and environmental factors may be impacting heat resilience. Understanding these factors is important for assessing vulnerability and finding environmental solutions to mitigate effects of climate change. In this study, we assess whether geographic range variation in bumble bees in the eastern United States is associated with heat tolerance and further dissect which other biological and environmental factors explain variation in heat sensitivity in these bees. We examine heat tolerance by caste, sex, and rearing condition (wild/lab) across six eastern US bumble bee species, and assess the role of age, reproductive status, body size, and interactive effects of humidity and temperature on thermal tolerance inBombus impatiens. We found marked differences in heat tolerance by species that correlate with each species' latitudinal range, habitat, and climatic niche, and we found significant variation in thermal sensitivity by caste and sex. Queens had considerably lower heat tolerance than workers and males, with greater tolerance when queens would first be leaving their natal nest, and lower tolerance after ovary activation. Wild bees tended to have higher heat tolerance than lab reared bees, and body size was associated with heat tolerance only in wild‐caught foragers. Humidity showed a strong interaction with heat effects, pointing to the need to regulate relative humidity in thermal assays and consider its role in nature. Altogether, we found most tested biological conditions impact thermal tolerance and highlight the stages of these bees that will be most sensitive to future climate change. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available November 1, 2024
  3. Climate change poses a threat to organisms across the world, with cold-adapted species such as bumble bees (Bombus spp.) at particularly high risk. Understanding how organisms respond to extreme heat events associated with climate change as well as the factors that increase resilience or prime organisms for future stress can inform conservation actions. We investigated the effects of heat stress within different contexts (duration, periodicity, with and without access to food, and in the laboratory versus field) on bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) survival and heat tolerance. We found that both prolonged (5 h) heat stress and nutrition limitation were negatively correlated with worker bee survival and thermal tolerance. However, the effects of these acute stressors were not long lasting (no difference in thermal tolerance among treatment groups after 24 h). Additionally, intermittent heat stress, which more closely simulates the forager behavior of leaving and returning to the nest, was not negatively correlated with worker thermal tolerance. Thus, short respites may allow foragers to recover from thermal stress. Moreover, these results suggest there is no priming effect resulting from short- or long-duration exposure to heat – bees remained equally sensitive to heat in subsequent exposures. In field-caught bumble bees, foragers collected during warmer versus cooler conditions exhibited similar thermal tolerance after being allowed to recover in the lab for 16 h. These studies offer insight into the impacts of a key bumble bee stressor and highlight the importance of recovery duration, stressor periodicity and context on bumble bee thermal tolerance outcomes. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  4. Bond, Jason (Ed.)

    Many herbivorous insect species are capable of hijacking plant development to induce novel plant organs called galls. In most groups of galling insects, the insect organs and molecular signals involved in gall induction are poorly understood. We focused on gall wasps (Hymenoptera:Cynipidae), the second largest clade of gall inducers (~1,400 spp.), for which the developmental stages and organs responsible for gall development are unclear. We investigated the female metasomal anatomy of 69 gall-inducing and 29 non-gall-inducing species across each of the major lineages of Cynipoidea, to test relationships between this lifestyle and the relative size of secretory organs. We confirmed that the venom apparatus in gall-inducing species is greatly expanded, although gall-inducing lineages vary in the relative size of these glands. Among these gallers, we measured the largest venom gland apparatus relative to body size ever recorded in insects. Non-galling inquiline species are accompanied by a reduction of this apparatus. Comparative microscopic analysis of venom glands suggests varying venom gland content across the lineages. Some oak gallers also had enlarged accessory glands, a lipid-rich organ whose function remains unclear, and which has not been previously studied in relation to gall formation. Together, the massive expansion of secretory organs specifically in gall-inducing species suggests a role of these secretions in the process of gall formation, and the variance in size of venom glands, accessory glands, and the contents of these glands among gallers, suggests that gall formation across this clade is likely to employ a diversity of molecular strategies.

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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2024
  5. The morphology of insect-induced galls contributes to defences of the gall-inducing insect species against its natural enemies. In terms of gall chemistry, the only defensive compounds thus far identified in galls are tannins that accumulate in many galls, preventing damage by herbivores. Intrigued by the fruit-like appearance of the translucent oak gall (TOG; Amphibolips nubilipennis , Cynipidae, Hymenoptera) induced on red oak ( Quercus rubra ), we hypothesized that its chemical composition may deviate from other galls. We found that the pH of the gall is between 2 and 3, making it among the lowest pH levels found in plant tissues. We examined the organic acid content of TOG and compared it to fruits and other galls using high-performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. Malic acid, an acid with particularly high abundance in apples, represents 66% of the organic acid detected in TOGs. The concentration of malic acid was two times higher than in other galls and in apples. Gall histology showed that the acid-containing cells were enlarged and vacuolized just like fruits mesocarp cells. Accumulation of organic acid in gall tissues is convergent with fruit morphology and may constitute a new defensive strategy against predators and parasitoids. 
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  6. Bumble bees are characterized by their thick setal pile that imparts aposematic color patterns often used for species-level identification. Like all bees, the single-celled setae of bumble bees are branched, an innovation thought important for pollen collection. To date no studies have quantified the types of setal morphologies and their distribution on these bees, information that can facilitate understanding of their adaptive ecological function. This study defines several major setal morphotypes in the common eastern bumble bee Bombus impatiens Cresson, revealing these setal types differ by location across the body. The positions of these types of setae are similar across individuals, castes, and sexes within species. We analyzed the distribution of the two most common setal types (plumose and spinulate) across the body dorsum of half of the described bumble bee species. This revealed consistently high density of plumose (long-branched) setae across bumble bees on the head and mesosoma, but considerable variation in the amount of metasomal plumosity. Variation on the metasoma shows strong phylogenetic signal at subgeneric and smaller group levels, making it a useful trait for species delimitation research, and plumosity has increased from early Bombus ancestors. The distribution of these setal types suggests these setae may serve several functions, including pollen-collecting and thermoregulatory roles, and probable mechanosensory functions. This study further examines how and when setae of the pile develop, evidence for mechanosensory function, and the timing of pigmentation as a foundation for future genetic and developmental research in these bees. 
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  7. Wayne, Marta (Ed.)
    Abstract The Ichneumonoidea (Ichneumonidae and Braconidae) is an incredibly diverse superfamily of parasitoid wasps that includes species that produce virus-like entities in their reproductive tracts to promote successful parasitism of host insects. Research on these entities has traditionally focused upon two viral genera Bracovirus (in Braconidae) and Ichnovirus (in Ichneumonidae). These viruses are produced using genes known collectively as endogenous viral elements (EVEs) that represent historical, now heritable viral integration events in wasp genomes. Here, new genome sequence assemblies for 11 species and 6 publicly available genomes from the Ichneumonoidea were screened with the goal of identifying novel EVEs and characterizing the breadth of species in lineages with known EVEs. Exhaustive similarity searches combined with the identification of ancient core genes revealed sequences from both known and novel EVEs. One species harbored a novel, independently derived EVE related to a divergent large double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) virus that manipulates behavior in other hymenopteran species. Although bracovirus or ichnovirus EVEs were identified as expected in three species, the absence of ichnoviruses in several species suggests that they are independently derived and present in two younger, less widespread lineages than previously thought. Overall, this study presents a novel bioinformatic approach for EVE discovery in genomes and shows that three divergent virus families (nudiviruses, the ancestors of ichnoviruses, and Leptopilina boulardi Filamentous Virus-like viruses) are recurrently acquired as EVEs in parasitoid wasps. Virus acquisition in the parasitoid wasps is a common process that has occurred in many more than two lineages from a diverse range of arthropod-infecting dsDNA viruses. 
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  8. Abstract

    Bumble bees exhibit exceptional diversity in their segmental body coloration largely as a result of mimicry. In this study we sought to discover genes involved in this variation through studying a lab-generated mutant in bumble beeBombus terrestris,in which the typical black coloration of the pleuron, scutellum, and first metasomal tergite is replaced by yellow, a color variant also found in sister lineages toB. terrestris. Utilizing a combination of RAD-Seq and whole-genome re-sequencing, we localized the color-generating variant to a single SNP in the protein-coding sequence of transcription factorcut. This mutation generates an amino acid change that modifies the conformation of a coiled-coil structure outside DNA-binding domains. We found that all sequenced Hymenoptera, including sister lineages, possess the non-mutant allele, indicating different mechanisms are involved in the same color transition in nature.Cutis important for multiple facets of development, yet this mutation generated no noticeable external phenotypic effects outside of setal characteristics. Reproductive capacity was reduced, however, as queens were less likely to mate and produce female offspring, exhibiting behavior similar to that of workers. Our research implicates a novel developmental player in pigmentation, and potentially caste, thus contributing to a better understanding of the evolution of diversity in both of these processes.

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