Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Insects have personalities too, research on honey bees indicates

09.03.2012
A new study in Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans, researchers report.

The findings offer a new window on the inner life of the honey bee hive, which once was viewed as a highly regimented colony of seemingly interchangeable workers taking on a few specific roles (nurse or forager, for example) to serve their queen.

Now it appears that individual honey bees actually differ in their desire or willingness to perform particular tasks, said University of Illinois entomology professor and Institute for Genomic Biology director Gene Robinson, who led the study. These differences may be due, in part, to variability in the bees’ personalities, he said.

“In humans, differences in novelty-seeking are a component of personality,” he said. “Could insects also have personalities?”

Robinson and his colleagues studied two behaviors that looked like novelty-seeking in honey bees: scouting for nest sites and scouting for food.
When a colony of bees outgrows its living quarters, the hive divides and the swarm must find a suitable new home. At this moment of crisis, a few intrepid bees – less than 5 percent of the swarm – take off to hunt for a hive.

These bees, called nest scouts, are on average 3.4 times more likely than their peers to also become food scouts, the researchers found.

“There is a gold standard for personality research and that is if you show the same tendency in different contexts, then that can be called a personality trait,” Robinson said, who also is affiliated with the Neuroscience Program at Illinois. Not only do certain bees exhibit signs of novelty-seeking, he said, but their willingness or eagerness to “go the extra mile” can be vital to the life of the hive.

The researchers wanted to determine the molecular basis for these differences in honey bee behavior. They used whole-genome microarray analysis to look for differences in the activity of thousands of genes in the brains of scouts and non-scouts.

“People are trying to understand what is the basis of novelty-seeking behavior in humans and in animals,” Robinson said. “And a lot of the thinking has to do with the relationship between how the (brain’s) reward system is engaged in response to some experience.”

The researchers found thousands of distinct differences in gene activity in the brains of scouting and non-scouting bees.

“We expected to find some, but the magnitude of the differences was surprising given that both scouts and non-scouts are foragers,” Robinson said.

Among the many differentially expressed genes were several related to catecholamine, glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling, and the researchers zeroed in on these because they are involved in regulating novelty-seeking and responding to reward in vertebrates.

To test whether the changes in brain signaling caused the novelty-seeking, the researchers subjected groups of bees to treatments that would increase or inhibit these chemicals in the brain. Two treatments (with glutamate and octopamine) increased scouting in bees that had not scouted before. Blocking dopamine signaling decreased scouting behavior, the researchers found.

“Our results say that novelty-seeking in humans and other vertebrates has parallels in an insect,” Robinson said. “One can see the same sort of consistent behavioral differences and molecular underpinnings.”

The findings also suggest that insects, humans and other animals made use of the same genetic “toolkit” in the evolution of behavior, Robinson said. The tools in the toolkit – genes encoding certain molecular pathways – may play a role in the same types of behaviors, but each species has adapted them in its own, distinctive way.

“It looks like the same molecular pathways have been engaged repeatedly in evolution to give rise to individual differences in novelty-seeking,” he said.
The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Illinois Sociogenomics Initiative supported this research.

Collaborators on this study included researchers from Wellesley College and Cornell University.

Editor’s notes: To reach Gene Robinson, call 217-202-9130;
email generobi@illinois.edu.
The paper, “Molecular Determinants of Scouting Behavior in Honeybees,” is available from the U. of I. News Bureau.

Diana Yates | University of Illinois
Further information:
http://www.illinois.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences

nachricht Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>