A recent study just found that the increasing temperatures are making American bumblebees evolve faster.
Global warming comes with more side-effects as its name may suggest, turns out that the phenomenon is also encouraging certain species to evolve quicker. However, that is not always a good thing, in the case of the American bumblebee, these evolutionary changes could lead to a decline in their population.
Scientists had recently came across two species of bumblebees from the Rocky Mountains which had much shorter tongues than 40 years ago. The team of researchers believes that the adaptation was a result of the climate change, which changed the structure of wildflowers during the last couple of decades. Apparently, the bumblebees who were feeding off these plants’ nectar used to have longer tongues, but now that the flower’s structure was altered, their tongues shortened as well.
The study’s lead author, Nicole Miller-Struttmann, professor at the State University of New York, declared that bumblebees, among many other insects, are species of animals that are evolving at a much faster rate than larger types of animals, such as mammals and fish.
Miller-Struttmann warned that these adaptations are not following the natural evolutionary course of these animals, and she is concerned that they may decrease the insect populations. She explained that because the flower is continuously shrinking, the American bumblebees are forced to broaden their range of food sources, making them compete with bigger insects that are feeding from the same types of flowers.
The author also noted that the food resources for the bumblebees living on Pennsylvania Mountain have decreased by about 60% since 45 years ago.
The study essentially shows how can the global warming phenomenon affect different species and their evolution. In order to arrive to this conclusion, researchers looked over older data to find out how long was this species’ tongue 45 years ago. By comparing them with the current measuring, the researchers found that the insect’s tongue has shortened considerably.
That is not all, the team of researchers also found that the temperatures of the place the two species of bumblebee inhabit, on the mountaintops of the Rocky Mountains, have increased by nearly 4 degrees since the year of 1960, one decade before the type of flowers the bumblebees feed off had started to suffer alterations. Turns out that the warmer climate is shrinking the wildflowers, and forces these insects to feed off other flowers.
Miller-Struttmann added that even though other species populations are growing, the American bumblebee remains the most economically important insect of in the United States. According to Greenpeace, the decline in the bumblebee populations may affect domestic crops up to 75%.
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