The allometry of bee proboscis length and its uses in ecology

Daniel P. Cariveau, Geetha K. Nayak, Ignasi Bartomeus, Joseph Zientek, John S. Ascher, Jason Gibbs, Rachael Winfree

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74 Scopus citations


Allometric relationships among morphological traits underlie important patterns in ecology. These relationships are often phylogenetically shared; thus quantifying allometric relationships may allow for estimating difficult-to-measure traits across species. One such trait, proboscis length in bees, is assumed to be important in structuring bee communities and plantpollinator networks. However, it is difficult to measure and thus rarely included in ecological analyses. We measured intertegular distance (as a measure of body size) and proboscis length (glossa and prementum, both individually and combined) of 786 individual bees of 100 species across 5 of the 7 extant bee families (Hymenoptera: Apoidea: Anthophila). Using linear models and model selection, we determined which parameters provided the best estimate of proboscis length. We then used coefficients to estimate the relationship between intertegular distance and proboscis length, while also considering family. Using allometric equations with an estimation for a scaling coefficient between intertegular distance and proboscis length and coefficients for each family, we explain 91% of the variance in species-level means for bee proboscis length among bee species. However, within species, individual-level intertegular distance was a poor predictor of individual proboscis length. To make our findings easy to use, we created an R package that allows estimation of proboscis length for individual bee species by inputting only family and intertegular distance. The R package also calculates foraging distance and body mass based on previously published equations. Thus by considering both taxonomy and intertegular distance we enable accurate estimation of an ecologically and evolutionarily important trait.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0151482
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding was provided to GN through a Fulbright-Nehru Postdoctoral Fellowship, to JZ from a Rutgers University Aresty Undergraduate Research Award, and to RW from a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (Co-PI, with N Williams PI). We thank D. Inouye and one anonymous reviewer who greatly improved this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Cariveau et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


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