Library Dissertation Showcase

Investigating the effects of visual stimuli on motor biases in bumblebees (bombus terrestris)

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

Recent research has shown that lateralization, the specialisation of the left and right brain hemispheres for different functions, occurs in invertebrates as well as vertebrates. Bees (Anthophila) have become a model group for investigating brain asymmetries, with particular research focus on honeybees’ sensory learning and memory. Motor biases and visual lateralization remain relatively unexplored in bees, and therefore became the focus for this study. Based on recent research in honeybees, a population-level rightward bias for bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), and an effect of visual associations, was predicted. Ten bumblebees were tested for asymmetrical side choice in a T-maze, in the presence of coloured visual stimuli that had either been previously associated with a reward, or not. Despite varying laterality across conditions, no significant population-level turning preference was found. This unexpected result could be due to the methodology, or an absence of population-level asymmetry for this species in this specific context. However, four bees had individual-level side biases, demonstrating some evidence of lateralization in bumblebees’ turning behaviour. Furthermore, three of the bees had a rightward bias, suggesting potential for a population-level bias. The findings of this experiment convey the possibility for further research exploring lateralization in bees’ motor behaviour and vision.

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