Holocene population expansion of a tropical bee coincides with early human colonization of Fiji rather than climate change

James B. Dorey, Scott V.C. Groom, Alejandro Velasco-Castrillon, Mark I. Stevens, Michael S.Y. Lee, Michael P. Schwarz

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8 Citations (Scopus)
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There is substantial debate about the relative roles of climate change and human activities on biodiversity and species demographies over the Holocene. In some cases, these two factors can be resolved using fossil data, but for many taxa such data are not available. Inferring historical demographies of taxa has become common, but the methodologies are mostly recent and their shortcomings often unexplored. The bee genus Homalictus is developing into a tractable model system for understanding how native bee populations in tropical islands have responded to past climate change. We greatly expand on previous studies using sequences of the mitochondrial gene COI from 474 specimens and between 171 and 3928 autosomal (DArTSeq) single nucleotide polymorphism loci from 19 specimens of the native Fijian bee, Homalictus fijiensis, to explore its historical demography using coalescent and mismatch analyses. We ask whether past changes in demography were human- or climate-driven, while considering analytical assumptions. We show that inferred changes in population sizes are too recent to be explained by past climate change. Instead we find that a dramatic increase in population size for the main island of Viti Levu coincides with increasing occupation by humans and their modification of the environment. We found no corresponding change in bee population size for another major island, Kadavu, where human populations and agricultural activities have been historically very low. Our analyses indicate that molecular approaches can be used to disentangle the impacts of humans and climate change on a major tropical pollinator and that stringent analytical approaches are required for reliable interpretation of results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4005-4022
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular Ecology
Issue number16
Early online date28 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • coalescent analyses
  • population size
  • Quaternary climate
  • South West Pacific
  • mismatch analyses
  • habitat alteration


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