Ancient pupae snug in leaves give clues to climate
A.R. Holden et al/PLOS ONE
It’s not all mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. The first leafcutter bees from the Pleistocene epoch have turned up in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.
Exquisitely preserved as pupae undergoing their transformation to adulthood, a male and a female are still wrapped in their leafy nest. Micro-CT scans and other clues let researchers identify the bees as Megachile gentilis, a species that still lives today. These bees line burrows with bits of leaves to pamper developing offspring.
The preserved pupae probably lived between 35,000 and 40,000 years ago, says Anna R. Holden of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. The bees’ presence suggest that the insects’ tar pit was near woods or riverbanks with pollen-rich plants in a relatively cool and moist climate, Holden and her colleagues report April 9 in PLOS ONE.
- A.R. Holden et al. Leafcutter bee nests and pupae from the Rancho La Brea tar pits of Southern California: Implications for understanding the paleoenvironment of the late Pleistocene. PLOS ONE. Posted online April 9, 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0094724