Give Now

A Moment of Science

A Honeybee and Dinosaurs

What does a tropical honeybee have to do with evaluating the merit of a theory as to how dinosaurs became extinct?

Well, the idea that dust and smoke from an asteroid impact blocked our planet from sunlight, sending it into a years-long period of darkness and chilly temperatures, or a nuclear winter, as it’s called.

The tropical honeybee, a creature that probably requires a warm temperature in order to survive, appears to have survived the nuclear winter.

Tropical honeybees from the late Cretaceous period preserved in amber are the ancestors of modern tropical honeybees, so some must have survived the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous. Because they are so closely related, scientists can infer that the ancient bees’ survival required similar temperatures to that of modern tropical bees. The optimal temperature range for modern honeybees, as well as for their food source, nectar-rich flowering plants, is 88 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit.

If the nuclear winter was as cold as scientists have estimated, a drop of 13 to 22 degrees Fahrenheit, then no modern honeybee could have survived, which would lead one to believe that their ancestors would also have been unfit for survival in such temperatures.

However, if the drop was less than 13 degrees Fahrenheit, then the bees might have had a chance.

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from A Moment of Science:

Support for Indiana Public Media Comes From

About A Moment of Science

Search A Moment of Science