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Caffeine improves memory in bees

Scientists have shown that caffeine improves a honeybee’s memory and could help the plant recruit more bees to spread its pollen.

The researchers showed through tests that honeybees feeding on a sugar solution containing caffeine, which occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers, were three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent than those feeding on just sugar.  Study leader Dr Geraldine Wright, Reader in Neuroethology at Newcastle University, UK, explained that the effect of caffeine benefits both the honeybee and the plant. 

“Remembering floral traits is difficult for bees to perform at a fast pace as they fly from flower to flower and we have found that caffeine helps the bee remember where the flowers are,” Wright said.  “In turn, bees that have fed on caffeine-laced nectar are laden with coffee pollen and these bees search for other coffee plants to find more nectar, leading to better pollination.

“So, caffeine in nectar is likely to improve the bee’s foraging prowess while providing the plant with a more faithful pollinator,” she said.

In the study, researchers found that the nectar of Citrus and Coffea species often contained low doses of caffeine.

The effect of caffeine on the bees’ long-term memory was profound with three times as many bees remembering a floral scent 24 hours later and twice as many bees remembering the scent after three days.

Technologies to save earth from asteroids

Lowa State University engineers are developing ideas and technologies to save the earth from potentially hazardous asteroids.

Recent events have certainly highlighted the threat of asteroid strikes. There was the 15-meter (49-foot) meteor that exploded an estimated 12 miles over Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, damaging buildings and injuring more than 1,000 people. That same day, the 45-meter (148-foot) asteroid 2012 DA14 passed within 17,200 miles of earth. “It’s not a laughing matter,” said Bong Wie, the director of the Asteroid Deflection Research Center at Iowa State University and the Vance D Coffman Faculty Chair and professor of aerospace engineering.

“DA14 was a serious near miss,” Wie said. “If that impact had happened, it would have been the equivalent of 160 Hiroshima nuclear bombs.

Wie’s studies lead him to believe it will take a one-two nuclear punch to break an asteroid into harmless pieces when there isn’t sufficient warning to use non-nuclear defenses.

Viviparous lizards facing mass extinction

A new research has warned that climate change could lead to dozens of species of lizards becoming extinct within the next 50 years. Globally it has been observed that lizards with viviparous reproduction (retention of embryos within the mother’s body) are being threatened by changing weather patterns. The new study suggested that the evolution of this mode of reproduction, which is thought to be a key successful adaptation, could, in fact, be the species’ downfall under global warming.

Researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of Lincoln investigated the hypotheses that historical invasions of cold climates by Liolaemus lizards – one of the most diverse groups of vertebrates on earth – have only been possible due to their evolution to viviparity (live birth) from oviparity (laying eggs).

Remarkably, however, once these species evolve viviparity, the process is mostly irreversible and they remain restricted to such cold climates.  The scientists discovered that increasing temperatures in the species’ historically cold habitats would result in their areas of distribution being significantly reduced.

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