Yes, you read it right! There actually are pollinator bees pretty similar to the ones found in the underwater ecosystems, and they are helping the sea grass grow in population!
According to the researchers at National Autonomous University of Mexico (NAUM), land bee’s cousins have been found shedding pollen to sexually reproduce under the sea beds. Before this revelation, there was a consensus among the biologists that the marine plants reproduced simply by spreading their genes via water. But this discovery of pollen-spreading ‘bees of the sea’ has debunked all those assumptions.
The NAUM researchers have been filming the nocturnal habits of crustaceans between the beds of turtle seagrass, Thalassia testudinum. since 2009 up till 2012, and it was during this research that they located invertebrates visiting male pollen-bearing flowers in higher numbers than those without pollen. The same behavior is observed in bees when they hover around pollen-laden plants on land.
Lead researcher Brigitta van Tussenbroek told New Scientist,
“We saw all of these animals coming in, and then we saw some of them carrying pollen,”
The novelty of the concept can be judged from the fact that the phenomenon has been given its own name: zoobenthophilous pollination..
To confirm it, some tiny crustaceans invertebrates were added in an aquarium with the pollinated turtle-grass, while some were added in an aquarium without any crustaceans.
Soon enough tiny crustaceans were seen carrying the pollen from flower to flower and in the process fertilizing them, while no major movement was seen in the other aquarium.
It is possible that the animals are simply attracted to the sticky seagrass pollen, and while gnawing at it the pollen clings on to the crustaceans’ bodies, just like bumble bees, and it is transferred to other flowers while they feed.
Up till now, this relationship is only seen with turtle-grass having large flowers, and it is still yet to be seen if the other 60 species of seagrass also attract the ‘sea bees’ in the same fashion.
Kelly Darnell, working at the non-profit research group The Water Institute of the Gulf told New Scientist:
“That pollination by animals can occur adds an entirely new level of complexity to the system, and describes a very interesting plant-animal interaction that hasn’t really fully been described before.”
Mother Nature! Never Fails To Amaze Us Does It!