By Paola Ramos Moreno
A study recently published in the journal Science, reveals that due to the decrease in the number of certain flowers in North America as a consequence of climate change, bees with the same distribution area have undergone a rather particular adaptation: the decrease in the size of their language.
This anatomical adaptation, the scientists explain, responds to the task of these insects to pollinate because, because the number of long tube flowers has been reduced, bees with shorter tongues and capable of sucking nectar from different species of flowers now they are the ones that prevail in the region.
The study found that long-tongued bees have declined in numbers significantly over the past 40 years, and that short-tongued species, due to their easier feeding, are replacing them. "This change appears to be a direct result of the warming in the summers that is reducing the availability of flowers, so that generalist bumblebees are more successful than specialists [The latter are dedicated to pollinate certain types of long tube flowers]", explains the study.
The study was led by Nicole Miller-Struttmann, an evolutionary ecologist at the State University of New York. Together with her colleagues, the scientist studied some regions of the Rocky Mountains of North America and the species of flowers and bees that live there. The researchers found that the hotter and drier climate of the place (caused by climate change) reduced the populations of some long-tube flowers and, with them, the bees specialized in their pollination.
In an article written by Elizabeth Pennisi on the same topic it is explained that the evolution of bees arises because there were too few flowers for all specialized bumblebees, and because bees with shorter tongues were better able to make use of a diversity broader flowers, gradually became the dominant specimens. In the last 40 years, the tongues of bees have contracted an average of 24 percent.
Regarding the fact, Sydney Cameron, an entomologist at the University of Illinois, commented to Pennisi that this “is one of the best examples of the effect of the climate that he has seen, but the reality is that [by reducing their pollinating insects] long tube flowers will disappear. [Which will represent] a large-scale loss of biodiversity ”.
Indian brush, clover, wild indigo, monkshood, blue bell, snapdragon, larkspur and digitalis are some of the plants that require pollination by long-tongued bees that are disappearing, according to an article by Elizabeth Pennisi.
This loss of plant species would be the negative effect of the adaptation of bees and will also affect some crops, but what is encouraging about the finding is the ability of bees to adapt to some effects of climate change, since they are one of the animals most threatened by this phenomenon and its loss already represents a negative impact on food production on a global scale.