Doug Yaneg and his colleagues wondered if these vulture bees, given their radical dietary change, had developed excellent microbiomes, and conducted a series of experiments to find out.
The adult bees used in the experiments were collected from field stations in La Selva and Las Cruces, Costa Rica in April 2019. For comparison, the team also collected bees that ate both meat and flowers, as well as bees that ate exclusively on pollen.
An analysis of the gut showed that the most dramatic changes in the microbiome were found in vulture bees that ate exclusively on meat. These microbiomes had a lot of Lactobacillus bacteria and are known to help digest flesh.
These bacteria are similar to those found in true vultures, as well as hyenas and other carrion-eating animals, which supposedly helps protect them from pathogens that may appear in carrion.