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Front Behav Neurosci. 2012 Jan 18;6:1. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2012.00001. eCollection 2012.

Prototypical components of honeybee homing flight behavior depend on the visual appearance of objects surrounding the goal.

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Department of Neurobiology and Center of Excellence 'Cognitive Interaction Technology,' Bielefeld University Bielefeld, Germany.


Honeybees use visual cues to relocate profitable food sources and their hive. What bees see while navigating, depends on the appearance of the cues, the bee's current position, orientation, and movement relative to them. Here we analyze the detailed flight behavior during the localization of a goal surrounded by cylinders that are characterized either by a high contrast in luminance and texture or by mostly motion contrast relative to the background. By relating flight behavior to the nature of the information available from these landmarks, we aim to identify behavioral strategies that facilitate the processing of visual information during goal localization. We decompose flight behavior into prototypical movements using clustering algorithms in order to reduce the behavioral complexity. The determined prototypical movements reflect the honeybee's saccadic flight pattern that largely separates rotational from translational movements. During phases of translational movements between fast saccadic rotations, the bees can gain information about the 3D layout of their environment from the translational optic flow. The prototypical movements reveal the prominent role of sideways and up- or downward movements, which can help bees to gather information about objects, particularly in the frontal visual field. We find that the occurrence of specific prototypes depends on the bees' distance from the landmarks and the feeder and that changing the texture of the landmarks evokes different prototypical movements. The adaptive use of different behavioral prototypes shapes the visual input and can facilitate information processing in the bees' visual system during local navigation.


classification of behavior; honeybee local navigation; prototypical movements

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