When examining how the ecosystems of remote islands have developed, it is important to know the timing of when various elements arrived and whether they then diversified. Our understanding of the histories behind the biodiverse south west Pacific (SWP) archipelagos is limited, and further impeded by the complex geological histories of this region. Previous studies of the SWP short-tongued halictine bee fauna suggest their presence is much younger than the geological ages of these archipelagos, which is surprising given their critical role as pollinators in other terrestrial ecosystems. The long-tongued megachilid bees represent a considerable proportion of the known bee species for the region, yet little is known of their origin. Here we use genetic diversity within mitochondrial DNA to infer the likely ages and origins of megachilid species from Vanuatu, Fiji, and Samoa. Our results indicate a very recent origin for megachilids in the SWP, with many species exhibiting small intraspecific genetic distances. Three species share almost identical haplotypes with specimens from Southeast Asia, suggesting multiple human-aided introductions. Combined with data from recent studies on other bee groups present in the region, our results have broad implications for how the Pacific island biota developed and how we should approach its management.
- Island biogeography