A study has found that the bird species most adapted to climate change is the American bumblebee, which is a common target of climate change scientists.
Researchers from the University of California-Berkeley (UBC) report that the bumblebees adapted to the climate by changing their wing structure, and the study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
“They are changing the shape of their wings, their body, and their morphology, and that’s all by themselves,” says co-author Mark Schubert.
“It’s very remarkable.”
In their study, the team looked at more than 100 species of bumbleflies that live in the US.
“They were all pretty much the same in all these different climates,” says lead author Mark Schusch, who is a professor in the department of entomology at UBC.
“The bumble bee is one of the more well-studied birds.”
The researchers found that when bumble bees were exposed to extreme temperatures, they could actually change their wing shape and wing length.
“So, for example, they’re going from longer wings to shorter wings,” he says.
“That is, they’ve gone from a flat, round body to a slightly curved, oval body.”
The study is important because bumble bugs are important pollinators of a wide range of plant species, including fruit trees, vegetables, and fruit.
“These insects are so important because they are a very important pollinator in many of these ecosystems,” says Schuber.
“Bumble bees are very important for pollinating the whole ecosystem.”
They were also found to be less affected by the climate change effects of the El Nino, which has been on for more than two decades.
“In a nutshell, they adapted to change,” he explains.
“This is really the first study of its kind that shows them changing their body shape and shape of wing.”
“This study is really a game-changer,” says Michael DePinho, a research scientist at the UBC Institute for Biological Studies and co-senior author of the study.
“You can look at this as an example of how the climate impacts can change how they look and behave.”
He says that the study demonstrates that the effects of climate changes can change what bumble insects can do, and therefore, they have to adapt.
“Climate change is a major factor in the evolution of species,” says DePengo.
“Because bumble beetles are such a common species, it’s really important that we understand how they respond to changes in climate.”
The team was able to identify the changes that bumble insect wings undergo when they’re exposed to extremes.
“We actually saw changes in their wing structures that are consistent with the wing changes that have occurred in birds,” he said.
“There were some wing changes in the bumbling bee, but these were very mild changes.”
The wing changes could have implications for other bumble bug species, because the researchers found changes in wing shape that may be indicative of a greater need for a wing for flight.
“When the wing is longer, it can be a very good candidate for a higher metabolism,” says team member Jennifer Burchard.
“And when the wing length is longer than the wing size, you need a larger and larger skeleton to support your weight and that increases your metabolic rate, which increases the risk of the disease.”
The research is published in PNAS.