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 Enduring cold temperatures alters fat cell epigenetics
19.04.2018 | University of Tokyo

nachricht Full of hot air and proud of it
18.04.2018 | University of Pittsburgh

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

Im Focus: The Future of Ultrafast Solid-State Physics

In an article that appears in the journal “Review of Modern Physics”, researchers at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) assess the current state of the field of ultrafast physics and consider its implications for future technologies.

Physicists can now control light in both time and space with hitherto unimagined precision. This is particularly true for the ability to generate ultrashort...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Diamond-like carbon is formed differently to what was believed -- machine learning enables development of new model

19.04.2018 | Materials Sciences

Electromagnetic wizardry: Wireless power transfer enhanced by backward signal

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Ultrafast electron oscillation and dephasing monitored by attosecond light source

19.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>