Bumblebees learn new behaviors from their peers

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The bumblebees learn new behaviors from their fellows

Bumblebees feeding in a puzzle box after pushing the blue tab.

Bumblebees (Bombus terrestris)adopt new behaviors by observing and learning from their more experienced peers, shows the work of British scientists.

New learning can then spread quickly through a colony, even if a different version is discovered.

The amazing behavioral repertoire of social insects is largely thought to be innate, but these insects have repeatedly shown remarkable individual and social learning abilities, Queen Mary University researchers note in their work published in the journal PLOS Biology (in English).

The work's lead author, Alice Bridges, and her colleagues have developed a puzzle box that opens in two ways to observe the transmission of novel, unnatural foraging behaviors in a population. The box could be opened either by pushing a red tab clockwise or by pushing a blue tab counterclockwise to access a sugar solution.

“Demonstrator” specimens were trained to use the red or blue tabs, under the gaze of “observer” bees.

Demonstrator specimens were trained to use the red or blue tabs, under the watchful eye of bees. When it was the observers' turn to tackle the puzzle, they overwhelmingly chose to use the technique they saw, even after discovering the other option.

This preference for the option taught was maintained by entire bee colonies, with an average of 98.6% box openings achieved using the method taught, the authors note.

Experiment provides strong evidence that social learning drives bumblebee behavior dissemination, researchers say.

En Furthermore, other experiments in which two behavioral variants were initially present in similar proportions resulted in the dominance of a single variant.

We wonder if these results, which replicate those obtained in primates and birds, indicate a culture capacity in bumblebees, asks Alice Bridges.

Similar experimental results have been obtained in species such as primates and birds which suggest that the latter, like humans, are capable of cultivating themselves. If bumblebees are also capable of this, it could explain the evolutionary origin of many complex behaviors seen in social insects. It's possible that what now seems instinctive was learned socially, at least originally, the scientists note in a statement released by the university.

“Bumblebees – and, indeed, invertebrates in general – are not known to exhibit culture-like behaviors in the wild.

—Alice Bridges, Queen Mary University of London

Thus, if the behavioral repertoires of social insects such as these bumblebees are usually considered instinctive, this work tends to show that social learning could have had a greater influence on the evolution of this behavior than what is thought. x27;we imagined until now.

The fact that bees can observe and learn and then form a habit of this behavior adds to the growing body of evidence that they are far smarter creatures than many believe. people give them, adds Professor Lars Chittka, of Queen Mary University of London.

“We have tendency to neglect "foreign civilizations" formed by bees, ants and wasps on our planet, because they are small in size and their societies and architectural constructions seem, at first sight, to be ruled by instinct.

— Lars Chittka, Queen Mary University of London

However, our research shows that innovations can spread like social media memes across settlements. insects, adds Professor Chittka. This reality indicates that they can respond to totally new environmental challenges much faster than through evolutionary changes, which would take many generations to manifest.

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