Alpine Bumblebees Show Rapid Adaptation to Climate Change


Researchers at the University of Missouri find that two alpine bumblebee species have responded to warming temperatures by evolving shorter tongues. The results suggest that some bumblebee species may be able to adapt to environmental challenges caused by climate change.

Since bumblebees have co-evolved with the floral resources needed for nutrition, researchers were curious how resident bumblebees were faring in the alpine regions of the Rocky Mountains. They looked specifically at changes in tongue length among resident bumblebees because this trait is intimately tied to the bee-flower relationship. In general, bumblebees with longer tongues are considered “specialists” which feed on flowers with deep, long tubes, while short-tongued bumblebees, in contrast, are “generalists” and tend to move pollen from a variety of flowers.

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