Bumblebees in Iceland could be brought by the Vikings

A group of specialists from the Northern (Arctic) Federal University and the Federal Research Center for Comprehensive Arctic Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences carried out research on the fauna of Iceland using the example of bumblebees. These insects are necessary for the normal existence of ecosystems and agriculture, including the cultivation of forage grasses in the North. The results of the work are published in the journal ZooKeys.

The origin of the fauna and flora of Iceland has not been sufficiently investigated. A number of scientists believe that all species of living beings came to the island relatively recently, after the end of the ice age. Others believe that some living organisms could survive the ice age on this island, for example, in warm areas near hot springs.

Modern genetic methods made it possible to obtain new data in order to shed light on this riddle. Studies have confirmed that most species of Icelandic bumblebees appeared on the island only recently, from the mid-20th to the beginning of the 21st century. These are representatives of genetic lines that are widespread in Eurasia. However, one of the species – the heather borer (Bombus jonellus) – is represented on the island by two genetic lines, one of which points to a more ancient lineage.

According to scientists, these bumblebees could get to Iceland along with Vikings. In this historical period in the North Atlantic, a large number of ships were shuttling, to which various small animals could get caught. With Vikings not only bumblebees, but also some mammals, for example, a special genetic line of the house mouse, found on the Orkney Islands, were settled.

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