American Friends of the Hebrew University
A study has revealed that bumble bees appear to give up sleep in order to care for their hive’s young, even if the offspring isn’t their own.
Bumble bees studied by scientists in Israel slept less in order to tend to larvae, as well as pupae that don’t need feeding.
Almost all animals sleep. Losing out on it is not only detrimental to how well daily tasks can be carried out, but also to health and survival, the researchers explained in the journal Current Biology. But sometimes skipping shut-eye can be beneficial if it frees up time for an animal to migrate, gather food, or stay safe from predators.
To find out more about the effects of offspring on bees, scientists filmed the insects and watched how they acted in a series of experiments. They compared how their sleeping habits changed in the presence of different combinations of male and female pupae and larvae.
Co-author Guy Bloch, professor of biology at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem told Newsweek: “We spend much of our time asleep, but still we do not know what is the biological function of sleep. Given that nursing bees are active around-the-clock, we suspected that this activity pattern also affects their sleep, and that the evolution of sociality in which some of the bees spend much of their time caring for the young, may be shaped the way their sleep is regulated.”
The findings reflect how mysterious sleep is, said Bloch, because deprivation comes at a cost but this study and a few others show “there is profound plasticity” in the behaviour in some animals. Future research should try to reconcile these seemingly opposing lines of evidence, he said.
“We do not know if the brood tending bees pay a cost for reducing the amount of sleep,” he said. “Alternatively, it is possible that bees evolved mechanisms allowing them to perform well with less sleep.”
Read the source article at Newsweek