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Naturwissenschaften. 2010 Feb;97(2):229-33. doi: 10.1007/s00114-009-0627-5. Epub 2009 Dec 4.

Bees use three-dimensional information to improve target detection.

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Department of Evolutionary Biology, University of Vienna, 1090, Vienna, Austria.


Bumblebee detection of a flat circular disc (two-dimensional (2D) presentation) and a disc which was presented 10 cm in front of a structured background (and thus provided three-dimensional (3D) cues) was compared. A dual choice test using a Y-maze apparatus was conducted to estimate the minimum visual angle at which the bees were able to detect the disc. At large visual angles of 15, 10 and 5 degrees bees' performance between the 2D and the 3D presentation did not differ. However, when the disc subtended 3 degrees at the bee's eye, the bees performed significantly better when 3D information was available. Overall, bees were able to detect a target subtending a 40% smaller visual angle when it was presented in front of the structured background compared to a 2D presentation. This suggests that previous reports on the limits of target detection in bees using flat stimuli might have underestimated the bees' ability to locate small flowers under natural conditions. Bees use motion parallax, i.e. the apparent relative motion of a stationary object against a background, for perceiving the third dimension. Our data suggest that bumblebees can integrate information from at least two types of feature detectors, motion and area, to improve single target detection.

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