Bees solve complex colour puzzles
Bees have a much more sophisticated visual system than previously thought, according to a new UCL (University College London) study in which bees were able to solve complicated colour puzzles. The findings shed light on how brains resolve one of the most difficult challenges of vision – namely, recognizing different surfaces under different colours of illumination – by suggesting that bees solve this problem using their experience with meaningful colour relationships between objects in a scene. The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, may one day lead to the design of autonomous robotic systems.
In the UCL study, scientists from the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology trained bumblebees to find artificial flowers of a particular colour using a nectar reward. They then tested the bees’ ability to find the same flowers in scenes that were simultaneously illuminated by four differently coloured lights – UV-yellow, blue, yellow and green. To solve this puzzle, the bees had to effectively segment the scene into its different regions of illumination, and then find the correct flowers within each region.
Dr Beau Lotto of the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology says: “Although we knew that bees were able to recognise flowers under different global lights, we didn’t know whether they could also do this under more complicated conditions, ones that are in fact more typical in nature, such as dappled light across a woodland floor.
“When all the surfaces in a scene are under the same light, identifying a particular surface when the global illumination changes is in principle an easy problem to solve, since all vision needs to do is adapt itself to the scene’s average colour, a bit like adapting to the darkness of a cinema. Far more difficult is to recognise the surface or object under multiple lights simultaneously, since adapting to the scene’s average colour – which was previously thought to be the strategy used by bees – won’t work.”
“Our study shows that the tiny brain of the bee can not only solve this difficult task, which the most sophisticated computers still can’t resolve, but suggests they do so by using the colour relationships between objects in a scene that were statistically most useful in their past experience. Because this same strategy is also used by humans, our work on bees, in conjunction with our work on humans, may enable us to understand the general principles by which any visual system (natural or artificial) can construct useful behaviour from ambiguous sensory information.
‘One long-term aim of our research is to exploit this understanding to build seeing robots that, like the bee with its mere one million neurons, can learn to find a simple flower in a meadow, which no machine can do at present. Our lab has reconstructed our specially designed bee flight arena – known as the Bee Matrix – in the virtual world, where virtual autonomous bees are ‘evolving’ under exactly the same conditions as those experienced by our real bees.”
Judith Moore | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...