Dr. Geetha Thimmegowda (National Centre for Biological Sciences)

The effect of air pollution on insects

Feb 11th 12:30-1:30pm ET

While the impact of air pollution on human health is well studied, mechanistic impacts of air pollution on wild systems, including those providing essential ecosystem services, are largely unknown, but directly impact our health and well-being. India is the world’s largest fruit producer, second-most populous country, and contains 9 of the world’s 10 most polluted cities. Here, we sampled Giant Asian honey bees, Apis dorsata, at locations with varying air pollution levels in Bangalore, India. We observed significant correlations between increased respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) deposition and changes in bee survival, flower visitation, heart rate, hemocyte levels, and expression of genes related to lipid metabolism, stress, and immunity. Lab-reared Drosophila melanogaster exposed to these same sites also exhibited similar molecular and physiological differences. Our study offers a quantitative analysis on the current impacts of air pollution on insects and indicates the urgency for more nonhuman studies to accurately assess the effects of pollution on our natural world.

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