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?”
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.
Collaborators on this study included researchers from Wellesley College and Cornell University.Editor’s notes: To reach Gene Robinson, call 217-202-9130;
Diana Yates | University of Illinois
New technique for in-cell distance determination
19.03.2019 | Universität Konstanz
Dalian Coherent Light Source reveals hydroxyl super rotors from water photochemistry
19.03.2019 | Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters
The Potsdam Echelle Polarimetric and Spectroscopic Instrument (PEPSI) at the Large Binocular Telescope (LBT) in Arizona released its first image of the surface magnetic field of another star. In a paper in the European journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, the PEPSI team presents a Zeeman- Doppler-Image of the surface of the magnetically active star II Pegasi.
A special technique allows astronomers to resolve the surfaces of faraway stars. Those are otherwise only seen as point sources, even in the largest telescopes...
Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have proposed a way to create a completely new source of radiation. Ultra-intense light pulses consist of the motion of a single wave and can be described as a tsunami of light. The strong wave can be used to study interactions between matter and light in a unique way. Their research is now published in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.
"This source of radiation lets us look at reality through a new angle - it is like twisting a mirror and discovering something completely different," says...
New research group at the University of Jena combines theory and experiment to demonstrate for the first time certain physical processes in a quantum vacuum
For most people, a vacuum is an empty space. Quantum physics, on the other hand, assumes that even in this lowest-energy state, particles and antiparticles...
Physicists in the EPic Lab at University of Sussex make crucial development in global race to develop a portable atomic clock
Scientists in the Emergent Photonics Lab (EPic Lab) at the University of Sussex have made a breakthrough to a crucial element of an atomic clock - devices...
Every year earthquakes worldwide claim hundreds or even thousands of lives. Forewarning allows people to head for safety and a matter of seconds could spell...
11.03.2019 | Event News
01.03.2019 | Event News
28.02.2019 | Event News
19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
19.03.2019 | Life Sciences
19.03.2019 | Physics and Astronomy