Patterns of size variation in bees at a continental scale: does Bergmann’s rule apply?

1 January 2018

Gérard, Maxence; Vanderplanck, Maryse; Franzen, Markus; Kuhlmann, Michael; Potts, Simon; Rasmont, Pierre; Schweiger, Oliver; Michez, Denis

Body size latitudinal clines have been widley explained by the Bergmann’s rule in homeothermic vertebrates. However, there is no general consensus in poikilotherms organisms in particular in insects that represent the large majority of wildlife. Among them, bees are a highly diverse pollinators group with high economic and ecological value. Nevertheless, no comprehensive studies of species assemblages at a phylogenetically larger scale have been carried out even if they could identify the traits and the ecological conditions that generate different patterns of latitudinal size variation. We aimed to test Bergmann’s rule for wild bees by assessing relationships between body size and latitude at continental and community levels. We tested our hypotheses for bees showing different life history traits (i.e. sociality and nesting behaviour). We used 142,008 distribution records of 615 bee species at 50 km x 50 km (CGRS) grids across the West Palearctic. We then applied Generalized Least Squares fitted linear model (GLS) to assess the relationship between latitude and mean body size of bees, taking into account spatial autocorrelation. For all bee species grouped, mean body size increased with higher latitudes, and so followed Bergmann’s rule. However, considering bee genera separately, four genera were consistent with Bergmann’s rule, while three showed a converse trend, and three showed no significant cline. All life history traits used here (i.e. solitary, social and parasitic behaviour; ground and stem nesting behaviour) displayed a Bergmann’s cline. In general there is a main trend for larger bees in colder habitats, which is likely to be related to their thermoregulatory abilities and partial endothermy, even if a “season length effect” (i.e. shorter foraging season) is a potential driver of the converse Bergmann’s cline particularly in bumblebees.