Molecular Determinants of Scouting Behavior in Honey Bees

Neuroscience Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 33.61). 03/2012; 335(6073):1225-8. DOI: 10.1126/science.1213962
Source: PubMed


Little is known about the molecular basis of differences in behavior among individuals. Here we report consistent novelty-seeking behavior, across different contexts, among honey bees in their tendency to scout for food sources and nest sites, and we reveal some of the molecular underpinnings of this behavior relative to foragers that do not scout. Food scouts showed extensive differences in brain gene expression relative to other foragers, including differences related to catecholamine, glutamate, and γ-aminobutyric acid signaling. Octopamine and glutamate treatments increased the likelihood of scouting, whereas dopamine antagonist treatment decreased it. These findings demonstrate intriguing similarities in human and insect novelty seeking and suggest that this trait, which presumably evolved independently in these two lineages, may be subserved by conserved molecular components.

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Available from: Trang Nguyen-Vu, Jan 09, 2014
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    • "Scout bees are known to search for novel food sources and for new nest sites during swarming (reviews: von Frisch, 1967; Seeley, 2010). In the latter case, a robust tendency has been found for nest scouts also to show food-scouting behaviour (Liang et al., 2012) characterizing individual bees as information gatherers. Next, we asked how flight parameters changed in consecutive orientation flights. "
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    ABSTRACT: Honeybees, Apis mellifera, perform exploratory orientation flights before they start foraging in order to become familiar with the terrain. To reveal the structure of consecutive orientation flights and hence gain insight into exploratory behaviour, we monitored individual bees from their first flight onwards using harmonic radar technology for flight tracking. We categorized flights into short- and long-range orientation flights. (1) Short-range flights are likely to be related to learning the specific features of the hive's immediate surroundings, and were performed significantly more frequently under unfavourable weather conditions. (2) The duration of long-range orientation flights declined from the first to the fourth flight because the bees spent less time inspecting the immediate surroundings of the hive. (3) Parts of single orientation flights were guided by extended parallel landscape structures on the ground. (4) During consecutive orientation flights bees explored novel sectors of the terrain. (5) Foraging flights performed after orientation flights covered greater distances and may involve a sector of the terrain not explored before, indicating that the acquired visual information plus path integration is sufficient for successful homing even from unfamiliar areas. (6) Exploration may be mixed with foraging flights after the initial orientation flights, sometimes leading to extremely long and elaborate flights. The latter are interpreted as being performed by scout bees. The results are interpreted within the frame of the psychology of exploratory behaviour in animals.
    Animal Behaviour 04/2015; 102. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.12.030 · 3.14 Impact Factor
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    • "MBE A common theme of recent results in the field of evo-devo and sociogenomics is that molecular components of behavior are often conserved between invertebrates and vertebrates , including humans (Reaume and Sokolowski 2011; Lian et al. 2012). This is impossible in the case of communication for cooperation; social insect communication is basically chemical, while other senses are more important in most vertebrates (visual and auditory signals, including language and reputation in human cooperation). "
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    ABSTRACT: Cooperation requires communication; this applies to animals and humans alike. The main communication means differ between taxa and social insects (ants, termites and some bees and wasps) lack the cognitive abilities of most social vertebrates. Central to the regulation of the reproductive harmony in insect societies is the production of a royalty scent which signals the fertility status of the reproducing queen to the non-reproducing workers. Here, we revealed a central genetic component underlying this hallmark of insect societies in the termite Cryptotermes secundus. Communication between queens and workers relied upon the expression of a gene, Neofem4, which belongs to the cytochrome P450 genes. We inhibited Neofem4 in queens by RNA interference. This resulted in the loss of the royalty scent in queens and the workers behaved as though the queen were absent. The queen's behavior was not generally affected by silencing Neofem4. This suggests that the lack of the royalty scent lead to workers not recognizing her anymore as queen. P450 genes are known to be involved in the production of chemical signals in cockroaches and their expression has been linked to a major fertility regulator, juvenile hormone. This makes P450 genes, both a suitable and available evolutionary substrate in the face of natural selection for production of a queen substance. Our data suggest that in an organism without elaborate cognitive abilities communication has been achieved by the exploitation of a central gene that links the fertility network with the chemical communication pathway. As termites and social Hymenoptera seem to share the same class of compounds in signaling fertility, this role of P450 genes might be more widespread across social insects.
    Molecular Biology and Evolution 07/2014; 31(10). DOI:10.1093/molbev/msu214 · 9.11 Impact Factor
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    • "Bioinformatic functional analysis of these differentially expressed genes implicated several neurotransmitter systems in the propensity to scout, including catecholamine, glutamate and GABA signalling. Authors used this information to conduct pharmacological experiments that established causal connections between these neurotransmitter systems and scouting behaviour, providing a means to manipulate the probability that an individual will behave as a scout (Liang et al., 2012). This study did not explicitly address the adaptive significance of scouting behaviour, but it is possible to imagine that such studies would benefit from the ability to manipulate the level of scouting within a colony. "
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    ABSTRACT: Researchers studying the adaptive significance of behaviour typically assume that genetic mechanisms will not inhibit evolutionary trajectories, an assumption commonly known as the 'phenotypic gambit'. Although the phenotypic gambit continues to be a useful heuristic for behavioural ecology, here we discuss how genomic methods provide new tools and conceptual approaches that are relevant to behavioural ecology. We first describe how the concept of a genetic toolkit for behaviour can allow behavioural ecologists to synthesize both genomic and ecological information when assessing behavioural adaptation. Then we show how gene expression profiles can be viewed as complex phenotypic measurements, used to (1) predict behaviour, (2) evaluate phenotypic plasticity and (3) devise methods to manipulate behaviour in order to test adaptive hypotheses. We propose that advances in genomics and bioinformatics may allow researchers to overcome some of the logistical obstacles that motivated the inception of the phenotypic gambit. Behavioural ecology and genomics are mutually informative, providing potential synergy that could lead to powerful advances in the field of animal behaviour.
    Animal Behaviour 06/2014; 92:263-270. DOI:10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.02.028 · 3.14 Impact Factor
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