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Scientists Have Found Gut Bacteria That Enhance Memory in Bees

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Last Updated: December 01, 2021, 08:52 IST

The study found that bees that had more of this gut bacteria in their diet showed enhanced memory power. (Photo: Canva)

The study found that bees that had more of this gut bacteria in their diet showed enhanced memory power. (Photo: Canva)

It was found that an increased prevalence of this bacteria results in an enhanced memory in bees.

A study germinated from the collaboration of multiple universities suggests that particular species of gut bacteria is directly linked to the memory in bumblebees. It was found that an increased prevalence of this bacteria results in an enhanced memory in bees. The study was carried out by the joint efforts of researchers from Jiangnan University, China; Queen Mary University, London; and University of Oulu, Finland. The species of bacteria under discussion is known as ‘Lactobacillus apis’ and is found in varied proportions in various bumblebees depending on the differences and changes in nest and pollination environments, activities, social interactions, and pathogens. The study found that bees that had more of this gut bacteria in their diet showed enhanced memory power as compared to bees that consumed less Lactobacillus apis.

“Our results suggest not only that the natural variation in the amount of a specific gut bacterium affects memory, but also show a causal link – that by adding the same bacterial species to a bee’s diet can enhance their memories,” said Dr Li Li, lead author of the study, in the results of the study which has been published in the journal Nature Communications. Dr Li also added that further work is required, but with enough research, microorganisms that create the same effect on humans can also be found.

The test that gave fruitful results to the team of researchers involved artificial flowers of different colours – five with sweet sucrose solution and five with quinine, a bee repellent. Researchers observed the efficiency with which bees were able to identify the flowers with quinine.

The same set of bees were made to perform the same test three days later. The sequencing of gut samples helped researchers devise a pattern between the amount of gut bacteria and memory abilities. To confirm the correlation between Lactobacillus apis and memory abilities, researchers introduced the bacteria in the diets of bumblebees and found evidence of enhancement in memory.

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Lars Chittka, co-lead author, Queen Mary University, said, “This is a fascinating finding that could apply to humans as well as to bees.”

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first published:November 30, 2021, 19:14 IST
last updated:December 01, 2021, 08:52 IST
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