Understanding the origin of biodiversity is a key aim of evolutionary biology. Most species are insects, but we know remarkably little about the evolution of this diversity at the species level. Bumblebees, a globally distributed genus of ~250 species, provide a perfect and important system in which to investigate this question. Bumblebees provide the key ecosystem service of pollination, and understanding their morphological diversity therefore has both pure and applied value.
This project is made possible by the recently published molecular phylogeny of the genus, and the unique and globally important collection at the Natural History Museum. We will investigate the evolution of key morphological traits that have been under strong natural and sexual selection. Results will provide fundamental insight into phenotypic evolution in general, as well as specific insights into the ecology and evolution of a globally declining but ecologically essential aspect of biodiversity.