The world’s earliest bees may have called Gondwana home
Sure of our world’s pollinators that power our planet could have been born tens of million years before scientists believed. In the study published on July 27 in Current Biology, researchers from a group identified the bee’s genealogy for over 120 million years back to a supercontinent once known as Gondwana. The former continent comprised portions of present-day Africa, Madagascar, South America, Australia, Antarctica, India, and Arabia and was broken up in the middle of the Jurassic period approximately 180 million years ago.
In a deeper dive into bee’s history, The team discovered evidence that bees were born earlier, expanded more quickly, and spread further than they had previously thought, creating parts of a puzzle about the origins of the pollinators. They could have originated in the present-day regions of Africa in Africa and South America before Gondwana split up.
In the study, the international team of scientists identified and compared genes from more than 200 species of bees. They then compared the bees’ traits with the traits of various bee fossils and fossils that have gone extinct to create an evolutionary timeline and a genealogical model of how bees traditionally spread across the globe. The researchers could study several hundred thousand genes simultaneously to verify their discovered connections were authentic.
“This is the first time we have broad genome-scale data for all seven bee families,” study co-author and Washington State University entomologist Elizabeth Murray declared in an announcement.
Studies in the past confirmed that the earliest bees originated from wasps in transitioning from predators to pollen and nectar collectors. Based on this research, the bees were first discovered in the desert areas of the western part of Gondwana in the middle of the Cretaceous period, between the ages of 145 million and 100.5 million years in the past.
“There’s been a longstanding puzzle about the spatial origin of bees,” study co-author and Washington State University entomologist Silas Bossert declared in an announcement. “For this first-time, we have scientific evidence to suggest that bees came from Gondwana. We now know that bees were the first insects of the southern hemisphere.”
The team discovered evidence that, as new continents developed, the bees shifted northward. They continued to diversify and expand in tandem with flowers, also known as angiosperms. Bees then moved to India in addition to Australia, and all the prominent bee families are believed to have split from each other before the start of the Tertiary period (65 million years ago).
The team thinks that the vibrant floral diversity in the tropical regions of the Western Hemisphere could have to do with their lengthy connection to bees. A quarter of the flowers belong to the vast and numerous group of rose-loving plants, and these stunning flowers comprise a substantial portion of the temperate and tropical pollinators for bees.
The team plans to continue researching and sequencing the history and genetics of more honeybees. Understanding how flowers and bees have evolved will aid in determining conservation efforts for pollinators as well as how to maintain their populations.
“People are paying more attention to the conservation of bees and are trying to keep these species alive where they are,” Murray said. Murray. “This work opens the way for more studies on the historical and ecological stage.”