Written by By Polly Kostui, CNN
An unusual group of vulture bees has been observed using their peculiar diet to up their rate of offspring creation, scientists have revealed.
The vulture bees, also known as the warbler bee, are known for their extensive brooding activity: each bee is female and pups are the product of several brooding attempts.
But the new research published on Thursday in Current Biology shows the bees’ tendency to have high rates of reproduction isn’t down to their inability to produce offspring. Rather, their rate is partly down to a distinctive gut bacteria that causes the bees to eat a high protein diet, gaining weight to increase their reproduction capacity.
The warbler bee prefers to feast on small, unmemorable pieces of meat and they carry around a large amount of load. Researchers say this makes them more efficient than bees that have less refined diets, but still eat tons of food.
“While protein-rich foods like pasta have been around for a long time, they have only been available to certain groups of larger species,” said Dr. Robert Stuart, from the Biodiversity Research Institute at the University of Adelaide, the lead researcher of the study.
“The small and unmemorable soft foods tend to be overlooked by the larger species and have generally been dominated by insects and caterpillars. Our findings show these small and unmemorable food items provide the same evolutionary advantages as more complex protein foods.”
The scientists measured the bee’s digestibility by taking specimens of their gut bacteria, analyzing the type of protein present in their guts and measuring how much protein they were eating.
Based on this, they were able to determine the bee’s diet by measuring its body mass, which comes from body weight with regards to their bodies weight in grams. Their body mass is expressed as the division of the total mass in squared meters, which translates into pounds, or kilograms.
Their diets provide a kind of temporary protection from disease, as a protein-rich diet decreases the amount of oxygen the bee has to breathe, reducing the risk of developing pathogens and those parasites that can eat away at the bee’s structure.