Signatures of increasing environmental stress in bumblebee wings over the past century: Insights from museum specimens

Arce, Andres, Cantwell-Jones, Aoife, Tansley, James, Barnes, Ian, Brace, Selina, Mullin, Victoria, E., Notton, David, Ollerton, Jeff, Eatough, Emma, Rhodes, Marcus, W., Bian, Xueni, Hogan, James, Hunter, Tony, Jackson, Simon, Whiffin, Ashleigh, Blagoderov, Vladimir, Broad, Gavin, Judd, Steve, Kokkini, Phaedra, Livermore, Laurence, Dixit, Mahika, K., Pearse, William, D. and Gill, Richard, J. (2022) Signatures of increasing environmental stress in bumblebee wings over the past century: Insights from museum specimens. Journal of animal ecology, 92 (2). pp. 297-309. ISSN 0021-8790

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Determining when animal populations have experienced stress in the past is fundamental to understanding how risk factors drive contemporary and future species' responses to environmental change. For insects, quantifying stress and associating it with environmental factors has been challenging due to a paucity of time-series data and because detectable population-level responses can show varying lag effects. One solution is to leverage historic entomological specimens to detect morphological proxies of stress experienced at the time stressors emerged, allowing us to more accurately determine population responses.
Here we studied specimens of four bumblebee species, an invaluable group of insect pollinators, from five museums collected across Britain over the 20th century. We calculated the degree of fluctuating asymmetry (FA; random deviations from bilateral symmetry) between the right and left forewings as a potential proxy of developmental stress.
We: (a) investigated whether baseline FA levels vary between species, and how this compares between the first and second half of the century; (b) determined the extent of FA change over the century in the four bumblebee species, and whether this followed a linear or nonlinear trend; (c) tested which annual climatic conditions correlated with increased FA in bumblebees.
Species differed in their baseline FA, with FA being higher in the two species that have recently expanded their ranges in Britain. Overall, FA significantly increased over the century but followed a nonlinear trend, with the increase starting c. 1925. We found relatively warm and wet years were associated with higher FA.
Collectively our findings show that FA in bumblebees increased over the 20th century and under weather conditions that will likely increase in frequency with climate change. By plotting FA trends and quantifying the contribution of annual climate conditions on past populations, we provide an important step towards improving our understanding of how environmental factors could impact future populations of wild beneficial insects.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bombus, climate change, digitisation, entomological collections, fluctuating asymmetry, landmarking, pollinators, Procrustes
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
Divisions: Faculty of Health & Science > Department of Science & Technology
Depositing User: Andres Arce
Date Deposited: 24 Aug 2022 14:01
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2023 14:40

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