Navigation Links
For bees and flowers, tongue size matters

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 into the corolla of the flower, dipping and retracting it to lap up the nectar. If its tongue is too short to reach the nectar, the bee has a problem. Long flowers like honeysuckle or columbine are too deep for short-tongued bees.

But longer isn't always better; long tongues are harder to wrangle into short flowers. Long-tongued bees are often specialists, favoring a few deep-throated flower species. In the bumblebee-sparse southern tip of Argentina, for example, Bombus dahlbomii, the native long-tongued giant of Patagonia, has lost ground to a new bumblebee from Europe, the short-tongued generalist Bombus terrestris, imported to help pollinate tomatoes. Although disease has likely played a role in the retreat of the long-tongued giant, B. terrestris also appears to be out-competing an earlier European immigrant, the long-tongued Bombus ruderatus.

Because specialists depend on just a few flowers, they can be more vulnerable to change. Tongue length can thus be intertwined with a species' risk of extinction, as well as specialization.


Contact: Liza Lester
202-833-8773 x205
Ecological Society of America

Related biology news :

1. Complex neural circuitry keeps you from biting your tongue
2. Anticipation and navigation: Do your legs know what your tongue is doing?
3. Tongue analysis software uses ancient Chinese medicine to warn of disease
4. Nitrogen pollution, climate and land use: Why what we eat matters
5. Sex matters for microbes
6. Reproductive Health Matters announces publication of its latest themed issue: New development paradigm
7. Protein quality: It matters
8. Family matters: Evolutionary relationships among species of magic mushrooms shed light on fungi
9. Cat and mouse: A single gene matters
10. Age matters to Antarctic clams
11. How belly fat differs from thigh fat -- and why it matters
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/26/2015)... , October 26, 2015 ... --> adds Biometrics Market ... 2021 as well as Emerging Biometrics ... reports to its collection of IT ... . --> ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... , Oct. 26, 2015  Delta ID Inc., ... authentication to mobile and PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® ... the arrows NX F-02H launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC ... F-02H is the second smartphone to include iris recognition ... in ARROWS NX F-04G in May 2015, world,s first ...
(Date:10/23/2015)... , October 23, 2015 ... announce a mobile plug and play integration of physiological ... tasks SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) present a ... solutions for eye tracking and physiological data registration. It ... SMI Eye Tracking Glasses 2w and physiological signals ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... -- --> --> ... Market by Product & Services (Primer, Probe, Custom Oligos, ... End-User (Research, Pharmaceutical & Biotech, Diagnostic Labs) - Global ... expected to reach USD 1,918.6 Million by 2020 from ... 10.1% during the forecast period. Browse 183 ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , November 24, 2015 ... market research report released by Transparency Market Research, the ... at a CAGR of 17.5% during the period between ... Market - Global Industry Analysis, Size, Volume, Share, Growth, ... non-invasive prenatal testing market to reach a valuation of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... In harsh ... Insertion points for in-line sensors can represent a weak spot where leaking process ... series of retractable sensor housings , which are designed to tolerate extreme process ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Capricor Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: ... development and commercialization of first-in-class therapeutics, today announced that ... scheduled to present at the 2015 Piper Jaffray Healthcare ... at The Lotte New York Palace Hotel in ... . --> . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: