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'Bees' Found Living Deep Under the Ocean

Dec 05, 2016 10:54 AM EST

Scientists have always wondered how aquatic plants reproduce. There are theories that these kinds of plant species behave differently from its terrestrial counterparts. However, scientists have discovered that aquatic plants get pollinated by sea creatures that function similar to bees.

Pollination under the sea has been a "proposed" mechanism, but no solid evidence exists to prove that it does happen. There have been theories that aquatic plants self-pollinate rather than cross- pollinate. Aquatic pollen has always been thought to travel from plant bed to plant bed through water current and waves, which is why it was a surprise for scientists to discover microscopic crustaceans that function as pollinators under the sea.

These underwater "bees" function in the same manner as its terrestrial cousins, honey bees and butterflies, that help in the pollination of tropical seagrass. A study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico has found out the existence of tiny marine invertebrates that swarm seagrass beds. Just like how bees are attracted to nectar, these marine invertebrates are attracted to male flowers and carry pollen from one flower to another.

According to a report from Gizmodo, scientists closely observed these tiny creatures, and it seems that they are closely attracted to the pollen released by male flowers and other protein-rich excretions of female flowers. Due to the thick mucus covering of these tiny invertebrates, pollen sticks to their bodies, allowing them to carry pollen to female plants.

Although originally a hypothesis, it was to the delight of the scientists to discover that the female plants did fertilize. According to a report from Science Alert, the research lasted from 2009 to 2012, and scientists called this new form of pollination as "zoobenthophilous pollination."

This is an important discovery as seagrass is an abundant source of food for many aquatic animals. Having the understanding of how aquatic flora and fauna interact will allow conservation experts to work on protecting these ecosystems. 

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