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Birds and bee lessons as Pacific field trips also solve 'Michener's mystery'

Date:
February 29, 2024
Source:
Flinders University
Summary:
Eight new Pacific bee species and new insights into Fijian bird behaviour on Viti Levu Island have been described in new scientific studies. The research highlights the potential for species discovery, ecological and conservation knowledge and cultural engagement from Asia-Pacific research collaborations.
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Eight new Pacific bee species and new insights into Fijian bird behaviour on Viti Levu Island have been described in new scientific studies led by Flinders University.

The studies, both funded by field work supported by the Australian Government's New Colombo Mobility Plan Program, highlight the potential for species discovery, ecological and conservation knowledge and cultural engagement from Asia-Pacific research collaborations.

In the past 10 years, Australian Government-funded Flinders University field trips have worked closely with the University of the South Pacific, government agencies and other researchers to support important ecology and conservation work in Fiji.

Flinders PhDs Dr James Dorey and Dr Ben Parslow joined researchers from Fiji, Hawaii and Australia to study a totally new group of beesin forest canopies.

"Our investigations have discovered an extra group of endemic bees in Fiji that have remained 'hidden' in the forest canopy despite years of looking and sampling," says Australian native bee expert Dr Dorey, now a lecturer at the University of Wollongong.

"Through our local collaborations, we also know that these bees are widespread in the Pacific.

"Happily, this also solves 'Michener's mystery' about how these tiny (3-5mm) Hylaeus made it to French Polynesia, dispersing over time from their closest relatives which were 4000km north in Hawaii and 6000km west in Australia."

Six Fijian species found foraging in trees are only the second native genus on the archipelago. One was found in French Polynesia ("more than 3000km as the bee flies") and one in Micronesia -- further highlighting their value of forests to pollinators -- and the potential for many more species to be found across the Pacific.

"Unlike the super-generalist Homalictus bees that inhabit Fiji and likely benefitted from ancient human-clearing, the Fijian Hylaeus are likely very vulnerable to anthropogenic clearing and may be critical pollinators in forest habitats," says Dr Dorey.

Co-author Dr Parslow, South Australian Museum taxonomist, says the study emphasises the benefits of long records of sampling in understanding diversity and conservation measures required for bee and other pollinators -- particularly for land and environmental managers.

The study references the pioneering work of US entomologist Charles Michener who wrote the seminal work Bees of the World in 2007, including studies on the social evolution of the Halictidae bee family in the 1960s.

In another study, Flinders University and University of South Australia (UniSA) researchers worked with University of the South Pacific (USP) researchers to understand more about native forest birds in Fiji.

USP Dr Alivereti Naikatini, with Flinders Professor Sonia Kleindorfer (now University of Vienna) and UniSA Associate Professor Gunnar Keppel, have recently published on the insect foraging and territorial defence of Fiji's forest birds -- focusing on the impacts of human disturbance and other threats to their survival.

Common bird species silvereye, Fiji white-eye, Vanikoro flycatcher and the Slaty monarch were studied in community-managed national parks on Viti Levu Island were studied over three years, from 2017 and 2019.

This kind of information can be useful to plan habitat refuge and protection under conditions of climate change or further human activity, says Flinders Professor Kleindorfer.

Read more in The Conversation: "Secrets in the canopy: scientists discover 8 striking new bee species in the Pacific" (https://theconversation.com/secrets-in-the-canopy-scientists-discover-8-striking-new-bee-species-in-the-pacific-222599).


Story Source:

Materials provided by Flinders University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal References:

  1. Alivereti N. Naikatini, Gunnar Keppel, Gilianne Brodie, Sonia Kleindorfer. Elevational differences in territory defence response in native (endemic and non-endemic) forest birds on Viti Levu Island, Fiji. New Zealand Journal of Zoology, 2024; 1 DOI: 10.1080/03014223.2023.2268533
  2. James B. Dorey, Olivia K. Davies, Karl N. Magnacca, Michael P. Schwarz, Amy-Marie Gilpin, Thibault Ramage, Marika Tuiwawa, Scott V. C. Groom, Mark I. Stevens, Ben A. Parslow. Canopy specialist Hylaeus bees highlight sampling biases and resolve Michener’s mystery. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 2024; 12 DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2024.1339446

Cite This Page:

Flinders University. "Birds and bee lessons as Pacific field trips also solve 'Michener's mystery'." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 29 February 2024. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240226114639.htm>.
Flinders University. (2024, February 29). Birds and bee lessons as Pacific field trips also solve 'Michener's mystery'. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 12, 2024 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240226114639.htm
Flinders University. "Birds and bee lessons as Pacific field trips also solve 'Michener's mystery'." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2024/02/240226114639.htm (accessed April 12, 2024).

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