World’s second glacial bumblebee population discovered in Arctic

World’s second glacial bumblebee population discovered in Arctic

July 12, 2021

Unique insects were found on Wrangel Island.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Arhangelsk scientists, having deciphered part of the genome of bumblebees found on Wrangel Island, concluded that it was Bombus glacialis (glacial bumblebee). Its population was previously discovered on Novaya Zemlya and was considered the only one in the world.

According to the Federal Research Center for the Comprehensive Study of the Arctic, the glacial bumblebee inhabiting the Novaya Zemlya archipelago was first described in 1902. For many years, it was a mystery for entomologists. Experts could not determine whether that was a new species or a different in color subspecies of the bumblebee Bombus lapponicus widespread on the mainland.

Its genome was decoded only in 2017. At the same time, DNA analysis confirmed that it was Bombus glacialis. The head of the Moscow Zoo’s entomology department Mihail Berezin, made the find on the territory of the Wrangel Island reserve. The reserve is located 3600 kilometers from Novaya Zemlya.

Summer on Wrangel Island

“In the course of genetic analysis, several nuclear and mitochondrial genes were deciphered. Based on the results, we concluded that the Wrangel bumblebee is a distinct population of Bombus glacialis. It is isolated from Novaya Zemlya not only geographically and genetically, but also morphologically”, said the director of the center, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Ivan Bolotov.

In his opinion, the two populations could have diverged during the warm interglacial period about 270 thousand years ago.

According to the Arhangelsk scientist Grigory Potapov, bumblebees from Novaya Zemlya and Wrangel Island have slight differences in color:

“In Wrangel’s individuals, some parts of the abdomen and chest are lighter. Based on genetic differences and geographic isolation, we have identified the Wrangel population of glacialis as a separate subspecies”.

At the same time, scientists fear that global warming and active development of deposits in the Arctic zone may lead to the death of the species. They are going to apply for the inclusion of the glacial bumblebee in the Red Book of Russia.
Earlier we reported that the last refuge of polar bears had begun to melt due to warming.

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Text: Mikhail Tuaev, Photo: Ilya Ukolov and Alexey Bezrukov

July 12, 2021

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