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For bees and flowers, tongue size matters
Date:7/15/2014

For bees and the flowers they pollinate, a compatible tongue length is essential to a successful relationship. Some bees and plants are very closely matched, with bee tongue sized to the flower depth. Other bee species are generalists, flitting among flower species to drink nectar and collect pollen from a diverse variety of plants. Data on tongue lengths can help ecologists understand and predict the behavior, resilience and invasiveness of bee populations.

But bee tongues are hard to measure. The scarcity of reliable lingual datasets has held back research, so Ignasi Bartomeus of the Estacin Biolgica de Doana (EBD-CSIC) in Sevilla, Spain, and his colleagues at Rutgers University (New Brunswick, N.J.) looked for a more easily measured proxy, like body size. Bee tongues are proportional to body size, but modulated by family adaptationsbee families typically have characteristic tongue shapes and proportions. The research group came up with an equation to predict tongue length from a combination of body size and taxonomic relationships.

Bartomeus will explain the equation and the usefulness of tongue length data for ecology at the 99th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America in Sacramento, Cal., this August during the "Pollination I" oral session on Thursday afternoon, August 14. The meeting lasts five days and draws roughly 3,500 environmental scientists from around the world.

A bee collects pollen on its body as it laps sugar-rich nectar from within the cupped interior of the flower's petals, and carries the flower's genetic heritage away with it to fertilize the next flower of the same species that it visits. In most species, the bee's tongue is guarded by a long, two-sided, beak of a sheath, which folds under the body when the bee flies.

Perched at the mouth of a flower, the bee unfolds the beaky maxilla and extends its tongue
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Contact: Liza Lester
llester@esa.org
202-833-8773 x205
Ecological Society of America
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2

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