A study by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México explored the effects of food availability on the colony and body size of 21 bumblebee taxa. Not surprisingly according to the study, the size of a colony is a direct result of food availability. The more food, the larger the colony. A similar relationship can be found almost universally between individual body size and food availability. The more food is available to an individual, the taller he or she grows. However, put together, this does not automatically lead to larger individuals within larger communities. On the contrary, the bumblebee study shows a negative relationship between colony size and the size of the individual. The more food is initially available, the larger the colony, but the smaller the individual bumblebees. And that could be good news in relation to mankind and the size of our cities, that have dramatically increased in size over the last century.
The Incredible Shrinking Man investigates how to shrink the human species towards a state of resource and food abundance. Can we learn from bumblebee colonies how to accommodate an increasing number of citizens in our megacities while on the other hand reducing individual body size?