They find hundreds of bees mummified for more than 3,000 years in their cocoons – Mystery Science

A recent investigation revealed the discovery of hundreds of mummified bees inside their cocoons, which They date back nearly 3,000 a paleontological site on the coast of Odemira, Portugal.

Scientists have identified four deposits located between Vila Nova de Milfontes and Odeceixein Odemira, in one of them, fossilized bee cocoons were found on an area of ​​one square meter.

Impressive level of preservation

According to the study published by an international team of researchers, the cocoons discovered would be the result of a very rare method of fossilization, since the skeleton of these insects tends to decompose quickly due to its chitinous structure, which is a compound organic.

These cocoons would preserve, like a coffin, young adults from death. eucera beeone of the approximately 700 species of bee that still exist in mainland Portugal today.

Carlos Neto de Carvalhoscientific coordinator of Naturtejo Geopark of UNESCO indicated that “the degree of conservation of these bees is so exceptional that we were able to identify not only the anatomical details that determine the type of beebut also their sex and even the contribution of monofloral pollen left by the mother when he built the cocoon and with which the larva would have fed in the first times of life”.

Open and closed sealed brood cells containing the bees. Credit: Neto de Carvalho et al. / Articles in paleontology.

By using the X-ray computed tomographythe researchers obtained a perfect three-dimensional image of the mummified bees inside the sealed cocoons.

CT scans allowed scientists to obtain images of bees inside their cocoons. Credit: Neto de Carvalho et al. / Articles in paleontology)

It is the first time that a recording of “ichnofossils”that is, traces of fossils containing the organism inside.

Why were these bees mummified?

Researchers say a sharp drop in nighttime temperatures in late winter or prolonged flooding in the area outside of the rainy season could cause hundreds of these young bees to die from cold or suffocation, then mummify them in this way.

However, the pollen stored inside the cells told the team that the bees had enough food (meaning they weren’t starving).

X-ray scan of a male Eucera bee inside a sealed cocoon. Credit: Federico Bernardini/ICFT.

Bees have evolutionary endurance and their ancestors are known to have lived on Earth for 120 million years. They have withstood wild weather changes and they thrived wherever a flowering plant could have taken root.

But find bodies of fossilized bees Unlike real turtle bones preserved in layers of sediment, they are rare.

in the world exist more than 20,000 species of bees. They are important pollinators, whose populations have suffered a significant decline due to human activities and associated with climate change. Understand the ecological reasons that led to the death and mummification of bee populations nearly 3,000 years ago could help to understand and establish climate change resilience strategies.

The research was published in the scientific journal Articles in paleontology.

References: NYT/National Geographic.

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