Adaptive traits of Turkish honeybee subspecies in response to climate A survey and a test of niche overlap

Creative Commons License

Kükrer M., Turak A. S. , Bilgin C. C.

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Symposium, Ankara, Turkey, 31 August - 01 September 2016

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Ankara
  • Country: Turkey





Adaptive traits of Turkish honeybee subspecies in response to climate: A survey and a test of niche overlap


Mert Kükrer1, Ayşe Turak2, Can Bilgin1


1Department of Biology, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. 2Nature Conservation Center, Ankara, Turkey.


Presenter: Mert Kükrer (M)


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


There are over 24 subspecies or “geographic races” of honeybees in the world. These races differ in morphology, biogeography and behavior and appear to have diversified following reproductive isolation during the Pleistocene glaciation. Research on their genetics suggest a model where Turkish races belong mostly to the same lineage, but evolved in extremely different habitats. Habitat-specific features such as daily temperature, abundance and phenology of nectar flow, length and severity of winter, or predator pressure are expected to influence foraging strategy, honey storage, production of young, overwintering success, swarming behavior or aggression in different races.


We surveyed potentially adaptive behavioral traits for each genetic component identified by microsatellite-based STRUCTURE analysis, and explored relations with climatic conditions prevalent where those components are geographically concentrated. 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.


Our survey revealed a number of life history traits that were shown or hypothesized to be related to certain climatic features, and that most honeybee forms have morphologies or behave as predicted. Despite low sample size, niche modeling produced ranges for each subspecies/ecotype that roughly correspond with particular ecoregions in Turkey. Precipitation in warmest or coldest quarter, precipitation and temperature seasonality, mean temperature of wettest quarter and annual mean temperature explained more than other variables in the best models. We discuss adaptive values of the traits of honeybees and suggest hypotheses to test these associations.