Bees Nearly Disappeared With Dinosaurs

Researchers find evidence of mass die-off 65M years ago

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 26, 2013 6:05 AM CDT

(Newser) – Bees may be in trouble today with colony collapse disorder, but new research suggests they've been down this road before. Scientists have determined for the first time that modern carpenter bees all but disappeared 65 million years ago, the same time that dinosaurs got wiped out, reports the BBC. The best guess is that the huge comet or asteroid that slammed into Earth killed the flowers they needed for survival. The researchers speculate that 90% of bee species got wiped out, reports New Hampshire Public Radio, and that this period of near-extinction lasted for about 10 million years, adds LiveScience.

The scientists made their findings not through fossil records but through DNA analysis. "We can track periods of diversification and stasis," says the lead author of the study in PloS One. "There was a period where there was no genetic diversification happening for millions of years—a real dearth of speciation," adds the University of New Hampshire professor. (The process they used is called molecular phylogenetics, and iScienceTimes has more details.) The hope is that further study could shed light on bees' current troubles and potential recovery. "Understanding extinctions and the effects of declines in the past can help us understand the pollinator decline and the global crisis in pollinators today," says the UNH scientist. (Click to read about a teenager's amazing dinosaur find in Utah.)

A modern carpenter bee.
A modern carpenter bee.   (Shutterstock)
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