Individual reflectance of solar radiation confers a thermoregulatory benefit to dimorphic males bees (Centris pallida) using distinct microclimates

PLoS One. 2023 Mar 14;18(3):e0271250. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271250. eCollection 2023.


Incoming solar radiation (wavelengths 290-2500 nm) significantly affects an organism’s thermal balance via radiative heat gain. Species adapted to different environments can differ in solar reflectance profiles. We hypothesized that conspecific individuals using thermally distinct microhabitats to engage in fitness-relevant behaviors would show intraspecific differences in reflectance: we predicted individuals that use hot microclimates (where radiative heat gain represents a greater thermoregulatory challenge) would be more reflective across the entire solar spectrum than those using cooler microclimates. Differences in near-infrared (NIR) reflectance (700-2500 nm) are strongly indicative of thermoregulatory adaptation as, unlike differences in visible reflectance (400-700 nm), they are not perceived by ecological or social partners. We tested these predictions in male Centris pallida (Hymenoptera: Apidae) bees from the Sonoran Desert. Male C. pallida use alternative reproductive tactics that are associated with distinct microclimates: Large-morph males, with paler visible coloration, behave in an extremely hot microclimate close to the ground, while small-morph males, with a dark brown dorsal coloration, frequently use cooler microclimates above the ground near vegetation. We found that large-morph males had higher reflectance of solar radiation (UV through NIR) resulting in lower solar absorption coefficients. This thermoregulatory adaptation was specific to the dorsal surface, and produced by differences in hair, not cuticle, characteristics. Our results showed that intraspecific variation in behavior, particular in relation to microclimate use, can generate unique thermal adaptations that changes the reflectance of shortwave radiation among individuals within the same population.

PMID:36917573 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0271250


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