Publications by authors named "Hoa-Ai Béatrice Hua"

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Essential role of papillae flexibility in nectar capture by bees.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2021 May;118(19)

Nonlinear Physical Chemistry Unit, Université libre de Bruxelles, 1050 Bruxelles, Belgium;

Many bees possess a tongue resembling a brush composed of a central rod (glossa) covered by elongated papillae, which is dipped periodically into nectar to collect this primary source of energy. In vivo measurements show that the amount of nectar collected per lap remains essentially constant for sugar concentrations lower than 50% but drops significantly for a concentration around 70%. To understand this variation of the ingestion rate with the sugar content of nectar, we investigate the dynamics of fluid capture by as a model system. During the dipping process, the papillae, which initially adhere to the glossa, unfold when immersed in the nectar. Combining in vivo investigations, macroscopic experiments with flexible rods, and an elastoviscous theoretical model, we show that the capture mechanism is governed by the relaxation dynamics of the bent papillae, driven by their elastic recoil slowed down through viscous dissipation. At low sugar concentrations, the papillae completely open before the tongue retracts out of nectar and thus, fully contribute to the fluid capture. In contrast, at larger concentrations corresponding to the drop of the ingestion rate, the viscous dissipation strongly hinders the papillae opening, reducing considerably the amount of nectar captured. This study shows the crucial role of flexible papillae, whose aspect ratio determines the optimal nectar concentration, to understand quantitatively the capture of nectar by bees and how physics can shed some light on the degree of adaptation of a specific morphological trait.
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May 2021