The growing list of the ways in which climate change is reshaping life on Earth has an unusual new addition: shorter bee tongues.
Over the past 40 years, warmer, drier weather has reduced flower populations in some regions of the Rocky Mountains in North America, forcing bees to work harder to find nectar. At the same time, bee tongues in those regions have got shorter, according to a study published in Science.
The change to the bees’ anatomy probably arose because longer-tongued bees tend to be picky eaters, dining mainly on nectar from deep flowers, says lead author Nicole Miller-Struttmann, an evolutionary ecologist at SUNY College at Old Westbury in New York. And when food becomes scarce, it doesn’t pay to be picky.