Scientists Just Discovered There Are 'Bees' in the Oceans
For the first time, researchers have found evidence that underwater ecosystems have pollinators that perform the same task as bees on land.
Just like their terrestrial cousins, grasses under the sea shed pollen to sexually reproduce. Until now, biologists assumed the marine plants relied on water alone to spread their genes far and wide. But the discovery of pollen-carrying ‘bees of the sea’ has changed all of that.
Over several years from 2009 to 2012, researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico filmed the spring nocturnal wanderings of crustaceans among beds of turtle seagrass, Thalassia testudinum.
Looking through the videos, they spotted more invertebrates visiting male pollen-bearing flowers than those that lacked pollen – just like bees hovering around pollen-producing plants on land.
“We saw all of these animals coming in, and then we saw some of them carrying pollen,” lead researcher Brigitta van Tussenbroek told New Scientist.
The concept was so new, they invented a new term to describe it: zoobenthophilous pollination. Before that, researchers had never predicted that animals were involved in pollinating marine plants.