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This content will become publicly available on January 5, 2025

Title: A simulated natural heatwave perturbs bumblebee immunity and resistance to infection

As a consequence of ongoing climate change, heatwaves are predicted to increase in frequency, intensity, and duration in many regions. Such extreme events can shift organisms from thermal optima for physiology and behaviour, with the thermal stress hypothesis predicting reduced performance at temperatures where the maintenance of biological functions is energetically costly. Performance includes the ability to resist biotic stressors, including infectious diseases, with increased exposure to extreme temperatures having the potential to synergise with parasite infection.

Climate change is a proposed threat to native bee pollinators, directly and through indirect effects on floral resources, but the thermal stress hypothesis, particularly pertaining to infectious disease resistance, has received limited attention. We exposed adultBombus impatiensbumblebee workers to simulated, ecologically relevant heatwave or control thermal regimes and assessed longevity, immunity, and resistance to concurrent or future parasite infections.

We demonstrate that survival and induced antibacterial immunity are reduced following heatwaves. Supporting that heatwave exposure compromised immunity, the cost of immune activation was thermal regime dependent, with survival costs in control but not heatwave exposed bees. However, in the face of real infections, an inability to mount an optimal immune response will be detrimental, which was reflected by increased trypanosomatid parasite infections following heatwave exposure.

These results demonstrate interactions between heatwave exposure and bumblebee performance, including immune and infection outcomes. Thus, the health of bumblebee pollinator populations may be affected through altered interactions with parasites and pathogens, in addition to other effects of extreme manifestations of climate change.

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Journal Name:
Journal of Animal Ecology
Medium: X Size: p. 171-182
["p. 171-182"]
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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