A comparative study of relational learning capacity in honeybees (Apis mellifera) and stingless bees (Melipona rufiventris)

Moreno, Antonio Mauricio, de Souza, Deisy das Gracas and Reinhard, Judith (2012) A comparative study of relational learning capacity in honeybees (Apis mellifera) and stingless bees (Melipona rufiventris). Plos One, 7 12: e51467.1-e51467.7. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051467


Author Moreno, Antonio Mauricio
de Souza, Deisy das Gracas
Reinhard, Judith
Title A comparative study of relational learning capacity in honeybees (Apis mellifera) and stingless bees (Melipona rufiventris)
Formatted title
A comparative study of relational learning capacity in honeybees (Apis mellifera) and stingless bees (Melipona rufiventris)
Journal name Plos One   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1932-6203
Publication date 2012-12
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0051467
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 7
Issue 12
Start page e51467.1
End page e51467.7
Total pages 7
Place of publication San Francisco, CA, United States
Publisher Public Library of Science
Collection year 2013
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Background: Learning of arbitrary relations is the capacity to acquire knowledge about associations between events or stimuli that do not share any similarities, and use this knowledge to make behavioural choices. This capacity is well documented in humans and vertebrates, and there is some evidence it exists in the honeybee (Apis mellifera). However, little is known about whether the ability for relational learning extends to other invertebrates, although many insects have been shown to possess excellent learning capacities in spite of their small brains.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Using a symbolic matching-to-sample procedure, we show that the honeybee Apis mellifera rapidly learns arbitrary relations between colours and patterns, reaching 68.2% correct choice for pattern-colour
relations and 73.3% for colour-pattern relations. However, Apis mellifera does not transfer this knowledge to the symmetrical relations when the stimulus order is reversed. A second bee species, the stingless bee Melipona rufiventris from Brazil, seems unable to learn the same arbitrary relations between colours and patterns, although it exhibits excellent discrimination learning.
Conclusions/Significance: Our results confirm that the capacity for learning arbitrary relations is not limited to vertebrates, but even insects with small brains can perform this learning task. Interestingly, it seems to be a species-specific ability. The
disparity in relational learning performance between the two bee species we tested may be linked to their specific foraging and recruitment strategies, which evolved in adaptation to different environments.
Keyword Atlantic Rain Forest
Proboscis extension
Bumble bees
Africanized honeybees
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Queensland Brain Institute Publications
Official 2013 Collection
 
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