A Survey of Niche Overlap and Adaptive Trait Responses of Turkish Honeybee Subspecies to Climate

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Kükrer M., Turak A., Bilgin C. C.

5th International Muğla Beekeeping and Pine Honey Congress, Muğla, Turkey, 1 - 05 November 2016

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Muğla
  • Country: Turkey
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


A Survey of Niche Overlap and Adaptive Trait Responses of Turkish Honeybee Subspecies to Climate


Mert Kükrer1, Ayşe Turak2, Can Bilgin1

1Department of Biology, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey (mertkukrer@gmail.com).

2Nature Conservation Center, Ankara, Turkey.


Introduction: Over 24 subspecies or “geographic races” of honeybees in the world appear to have diversified following isolation during the Pleistocene glaciations. Research on their differences in morphology, biogeography, behavior and genetics suggest that Turkish races belong mostly to the same lineage, but evolved in extremely different habitats. Foraging strategies, honey storage, production of young, overwintering success, swarming behavior or aggression show differences between races. Such traits might be influenced during the adaptation process by habitat-specific features like daily temperature, abundance and phenology of nectar flow, length and severity of winter, or predator pressure.

Method: This study includes a survey of potentially adaptive traits that belong to different genetic components identified by STRUCTURE analysis which was based on a microsatellite marker assay. Relationship between climatic conditions and potentially adaptive traits were also explored. To overcome restrictions of limited sampling, we used ecological niche modeling to estimate distributional ranges and identify possible climatic drivers of adaptation for four subspecies and one ecotype.

Results and Conclusion: Although the sample sizes were low, niche models produced ranges for each of the subspecies and ecotypes that roughly correspond to particular ecoregions in Turkey. Precipitation in the warmest or coldest quarter, precipitation and temperature seasonality, mean temperature of the wettest quarter and annual mean temperature explained ranges produced by models more than other variables. Due to our survey, a number of life history traits, morphologies and behavior could be related to certain climatic features. We discuss adaptive values of the traits belonging to different honeybee subspecies and ecotypes and suggest hypotheses to test these associations within the context of queen and colony trades.

Keywords: Apis mellifera, subspecies, ecotypes, adaptive traits, ecological niche modeling, climate, distributional range