Changes of abiotic and biotic conditions along elevational gradients represent serious challenges to organisms which may promote the turnover of species, traits and biotic interaction partners. Here, we used molecular methods to study cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles, biotic interactions and phylogenetic relationships of halictid bees of the genus Lasioglossum along a 2,900 m elevational gradient at Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We detected a strong species turnover of morphologically indistinguishable taxa with phylogenetically clustered cryptic species at high elevations, changes in CHC profiles, pollen resource diversity, and a turnover in the gut and body surface microbiome of bees. At high elevations, increased proportions of saturated compounds in CHC profiles indicate physiological adaptations to prevent desiccation. More specialized diets with higher proportions of low-quality Asteraceae pollen imply constraints in the availability of food resources. Interactive effects of climatic conditions on gut and surface microbiomes, CHC profiles, and pollen diet suggest complex feedbacks among abiotic conditions, ecological interactions, physiological adaptations, and phylogenetic constraints as drivers of halictid bee communities at Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Mayr, A. V., A. Keller, M. K. Peters, G. Grimmer, B. Krischke, M. Geyer, T. Schmitt, and I. Steffan-Dewenter (2021) “Cryptic species and hidden ecological interactions of halictine bees along an elevational gradient” Ecology and Evolution DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.7605