Big-brained city bees live a better life


A study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B has come to the conclusion that some bee species thrive in the urban environment and develop bigger brains to adapt to it. The urban environment can offer unique ecological opportunities with, for example, a respite from insecticides which can be very damaging to bees and other insects and reduced predation pressure. There is also a high level of food availability.

The cleverest bees are able to take advantage of all city living. The researchers examined the bodies and brains of 335 bees from 89 species and they found that city-dwelling bees had brains that were larger relative to body size.

RELATED: Bees enjoy playing by rolling balls

The researchers work out of institutions in Spain and Germany including the University of Seville. Their objective was to better understand why increased human activity negatively impacted some species of pollinator whereas other species were able to cope well.

The researchers commented that, “Not all pollinators are negatively affected by habitat conversion as certain species find anthropogenic landscapes appropriate resources to persist and proliferate.”

They added that: “Our analysis revealed that bee species mainly found in urban habitats had larger brains relative to their body size than those that tend to occur in forested or agricultural habitats. Additionally, urban bees exhibited larger body sizes and, consequently, larger absolute brain sizes.”

The evolution of bigger brains by species of animal to boost their ability to adapt and overcome new challenges is well known in vertebrates but this is the first evidence of it occurring in insects.

The researchers said that as is the case in vertebrates, “Species [of bee] with larger brains have enhanced behavioural plasticity, enabling them to confront and adapt to novel challenges…Our results provide the first empirical support for the cognitive buffer hypothesis in invertebrates, suggesting that a large brain in bees could confer behavioural advantages to tolerate urban environments.”

The reference to “the cognitive buffer hypothesis” is to the adaptation to evolve larger brains when in new challenging environments.

RELATED: The giant bee that sells for almost $10,000 (dead)

Leave a Comment

Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Speciesism - 'them and us' | Cruelty - always shameful
follow it link and logo

Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

At heart this site is about ANTHROPOCENTRISM meaning a human-centric world.

Post Category: Insects > bees