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

Title: Signatures of increasing environmental stress in bumblebee wings over the past century: Insights from museum specimens
Authors: Arce, A
Cantwell-Jones, A
Tansley, M
Barnes, I
Brace, S
Mullin, VE
Notton, D
Ollerton, J
Eatough, E
Rhodes, MW
Bian, X
Hogan, J
Hunter, T
Jackson, S
Whiffin, A
Blagoderov, V
Broad, G
Judd, S
Kokkini, P
Livermore, L
Dixit, MK
Pearse, WD
Gill, R
Item Type: Journal Article
Abstract: 1. 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. 2. 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. 3. We: i) investigated whether baseline FA levels vary between species, and how this compares between the first and second half of the century; ii) determined the extent of FA change over the century in the four bumblebee species, and whether this followed a linear or non-linear trend; iii) tested which annual climatic conditions correlated with increased FA in bumblebees. 4. 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 non-linear trend, with the increase starting c. 1925. We found relatively warm and wet years were associated with higher FA. 5. 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.
Issue Date: 1-Feb-2023
Date of Acceptance: 22-Jun-2022
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10044/1/98837
DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.13788
ISSN: 0021-8790
Publisher: Wiley
Start Page: 297
End Page: 309
Journal / Book Title: Journal of Animal Ecology
Volume: 92
Issue: 2
Copyright Statement: © 2022 The Authors. Journal of Animal Ecology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Ecological Society. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publication Status: Published
Online Publication Date: 2022-08-17
Appears in Collections:Faculty of Natural Sciences