Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Espionage May Have Driven The Evolution Of Bee Language According To UCSD-Led Study In Brazil

16.06.2004


Close-up of aggressive stingless bee
Photo Credit: James Nieh, UCSD


Aggressive stingless bee attacking an Africanized honeybee (a "killer" bee)
Photo Credit: James Nieh, UCSD


A discovery by a University of California, San Diego biologist that some species of bees exploit chemical clues left by other bee species to guide their kin to food provides evidence that eavesdropping may be an evolutionary driving force behind some bees’ ability to conceal communication inside the hive, using a form of animal language to encode food location.

Bees can use two main forms of communication to tell their hive mates where to find food: abstract representations such as sounds or dances within the hive or scent markings outside the hive to mark the food and/or the route to it. In 1999, James Nieh, an assistant professor of biology at UCSD, published a paper in which he hypothesized communication within the hive may have evolved as a way of avoiding espionage by competitors.

Nieh’s most recent study, a collaboration with Brazilian biologists published June 16 in the early on-line version of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society, is strong support for that hypothesis because it shows that bees can indeed use the chemical markings deposited by bees of other species to home in on and take over their food source. The paper will appear in print in Proceedings of the Royal Society in August.



“We show that foragers of an aggressive species searching for an unscented food source at a new location, detected and preferentially oriented to odor marks deposited by a competitor and then rapidly dominated the food source, killing or driving off all of the competitors within ten minutes,” says Nieh. “The ability of foragers to communicate food location within the confines of the hive, where other bees cannot eavesdrop, would be a clear evolutionary advantage where floral resources are seasonally scarce.”

Nieh along with Felipe Contrera and Vera Imperatriz-Fonseca from the University of São Paulo, Brazil and Lillian Barreto from Agricultural Development Agency of the the State of Bahia, Brazil studied interactions between two species of bees, Trigona spinipes and Melipona rufiventris. Both species are stingless bees, a diverse group prevalent in South and Central America. Because Trigona spinipes is a highly aggressive species, the researchers hypothesized that if these bees could use olfactory eavesdropping they would be able to gain control of a food source that competitors had discovered and identified with scent markings.

“These bees (Trigona spinipes) are so aggressive that they attack Africanized honey bees—popularly known as killer bees—and even attack several species of birds, driving them off flowers,” says Nieh. “In our study, we observed that when they took over the food source from the victim species (Melipona rufiventris) they used a range of forms of aggression from threats to intense grappling followed by decapitation.”

In their experiments, the researchers trained bees of each species to feed at separate dishes of unscented sugar water more than 100 yards away from each other. On discs of paper, the researchers collected scent markings from bees of each species as they were feeding. Scent markings are glandular secretions from bees’ heads or other body parts that many bee species use to indicate a food source. The researchers then covered the original feeder of either the aggressor or victim species and put out dummy feeders at a new location with paper marked by bees of their own species, paper marked by the other species, or unmarked paper. Bees of both species were able to distinguish their kin’s odor marks from the marks of the other species.

“The victim species preferred their own odor marks and avoided those of the aggressor species, but bees of the aggressor species, when searching for a new food source, preferred the odor marks of the victim species to their own odor marks or no odor marks,” says Nieh.

In their paper, the researchers point out that the bees’ responses are adaptive in both cases. The victim species avoids attack by avoiding resources marked by the aggressor species. On the other hand, exploiting the discoveries of other species provides the aggressor species with a steady means to find new rich food sources.

Bees are among a very limited number of species, besides humans, able to abstractly encode information about the physical world into signals understood by receivers. While scientists do not know what kind of communication the two species of bees employ within their hives, Nieh says his team’s finding that they are able to spy on each other’s olfactory markings sheds light on the long-standing mystery of why some other stingless bees and honeybees evolved one of the most sophisticated forms of animal language, strategies that would allow them to inform their kin about distance and direction to a food source while inside the hive.

Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation, the University of California Academic Senate and the Heiligenberg Chair Endowment at UCSD.

Sherry Seethaler | UCSD
Further information:
http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/newsrel/science/sbeespy.asp

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht A Map of the Cell’s Power Station
18.08.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

nachricht On the way to developing a new active ingredient against chronic infections
18.08.2017 | Deutsches Zentrum für Infektionsforschung

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

A Map of the Cell’s Power Station

18.08.2017 | Life Sciences

Engineering team images tiny quasicrystals as they form

18.08.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers printed graphene-like materials with inkjet

18.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>