Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Insects have 'personalities' too, research on novelty-seeking honey bees indicates

Date:
March 8, 2012
Source:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Summary:
Thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates, new research suggests. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans, researchers report.

A new study in Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure.
Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

A new study in Science suggests that thrill-seeking is not limited to humans and other vertebrates. Some honey bees, too, are more likely than others to seek adventure. The brains of these novelty-seeking bees exhibit distinct patterns of gene activity in molecular pathways known to be associated with thrill-seeking in humans, researchers report.

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?"

Robinson and his colleagues studied two behaviors that looked like novelty-seeking in honey bees: scouting for nest sites and scouting for food.

When a colony of bees outgrows its living quarters, the hive divides and the swarm must find a suitable new home. At this moment of crisis, a few intrepid bees -- less than 5 percent of the swarm -- take off to hunt for a hive.

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. 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," who Robinson, who also is affiliated with the Neuroscience Program at Illinois. "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.

The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health and Illinois Sociogenomics Initiative supported this research.

Collaborators on this study included researchers from Wellesley College and Cornell University.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Z. S. Liang, T. Nguyen, H. R. Mattila, S. L. Rodriguez-Zas, T. D. Seeley, G. E. Robinson. Molecular Determinants of Scouting Behavior in Honey Bees. Science, 2012; 335 (6073): 1225 DOI: 10.1126/science.1213962

Cite This Page:

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Insects have 'personalities' too, research on novelty-seeking honey bees indicates." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120308143201.htm>.
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. (2012, March 8). Insects have 'personalities' too, research on novelty-seeking honey bees indicates. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120308143201.htm
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Insects have 'personalities' too, research on novelty-seeking honey bees indicates." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120308143201.htm (accessed September 20, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

Raw: San Diego Zoo Welcomes Cheetah Cubs

AP (Sep. 20, 2014) The San Diego Zoo has welcomed two Cheetah cubs to its Safari Park. The nearly three-week-old female cubs are being hand fed and are receiving around the clock care. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

Chocolate Museum Opens in Brussels

AFP (Sep. 19, 2014) Considered a "national heritage" in Belgium, chocolate now has a new museum in Brussels. In a former chocolate factory, visitors to the permanent exhibition spaces, workshops and tastings can discover derivatives of the cocoa bean. Duration: 01:00 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Could Grief Affect The Immune Systems Of Senior Citizens?

Newsy (Sep. 19, 2014) The study found elderly people are much more likely to become susceptible to infection than younger adults going though a similar situation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

Jury Delivers Verdict in Salmonella Trial

AP (Sep. 19, 2014) A federal jury has convicted three people in connection with an outbreak of salmonella poisoning five years ago that sickened hundreds of people and was linked to a number of deaths. (Sept. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins