Hundreds of mummified bees in their cocoons dating back to nearly three thousand years ago have been found on the south-west coast of Portugal in a new study paleontological site in Odemira.
The discovery, in which the professor of the Department of Crystallography, Mineralogy and Agrochemistry of the University of Seville, Fernando Munizwas published in the international magazine Essays on paleontology.
The study details the appearance of bees that are “ready to leave their nests or cells.” in an exceptional state of preservation”, found in their cocoons. Stores of pollen of this species have also appeared in these cocoons brassicaceae, That is, they are descended from common herbaceous species but show their particular fondness for a single monofloral variety.
The good fossil state in which bees have been found is “extremely rare” according to the publication’s authors, as the skeleton of these insects usually disintegrates quickly. So the research team owes the excellent degree of preservation was able to determine the type of bee, its sex and even the pollen contribution left by the mother when she created the cocoon.
X-ray microcomputed tomography lateral view of a male Euroceras. / UNITED STATES
Lack of oxygen and changing temperatures
Bees are one of the most important groups of pollinating insects, comprising more than 20,000 species. About three quarters of all wild bee species nest on the ground and spend much of their life cycle underground, making it easy preservation of their nesting structures.
In the published article, the researchers describe dense clusters of thousands of fossil nests per square meter found in southwestern Portugal. These nests or cells were mostly assigned to the ichnogenus Palmiraichnus.
The recording of this ichnogenus represents a unique opportunity to examine in detail the well-preserved architecture of the nests and the possible possibilities Environmental causes of death and burial This led to the preservation of the specimens 3,000 years ago.
According to the study, while the cause of death of these found bees remains a mystery, oxygen starvation due to flash flooding and the resulting temperature drop overnight could be plausible causes. The southwest coast of Portugal experienced slightly colder periods and higher winter rainfall during the Neoglacial period, favorable climatic conditions for the study of these fossils.
Every tenth bee species in Europe is threatened with extinction
“Bees are important pollinating insects for ecosystems, and their decline would have a direct impact on biodiversity, the many species of plants and animals that depend directly or indirectly on them, including us humans.” It is known, for example, that bees pollinate 70 percent of the plants eaten by humans and 30 percent of cattle feed. Human activities such as intensive agriculture, the use of pesticides and insecticides and climate change mean that one in ten bee species in Europe is currently threatened with extinction,” emphasizes Muñiz.
“Knowing and interpreting the ecological reasons for both the existence of this bee population and their death and mummification 3,000 years ago could help to understand and establish resilience strategies in the face of climate change, such as comparing the ecological imbalances caused.” Parameters with the current imbalances and the way they affect current bee species,” explains the lead author, Carlos Neto de Carvalho.