Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Anim Cogn. 2017 Jul;20(4):627-638. doi: 10.1007/s10071-017-1086-6. Epub 2017 Apr 3.

Free-flying honeybees extrapolate relational size rules to sort successively visited artificial flowers in a realistic foraging situation.

Author information

1
Bio-inspired Digital Sensing (BIDS) Lab, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia. scarlett.howard@rmit.edu.au.
2
School of Biosciences, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia. scarlett.howard@rmit.edu.au.
3
Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, Centre de Biologie Intégrative (CBI), Université de Toulouse, CNRS, UPS, Toulouse, France.
4
Bio-inspired Digital Sensing (BIDS) Lab, School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia.
5
Department of Physiology, Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia.

Abstract

Learning and applying relational concepts to solve novel tasks is considered an indicator of cognitive-like ability. It requires the abstraction of relational concepts to different objects independent to the physical nature of the individual objects. Recent research has revealed the honeybee's ability to rapidly learn and manipulate relations between visual stimuli such as 'same/different', 'above/below', or 'larger/smaller' despite having a miniature-sized brain. While honeybees can solve problems using rule-based relative size comparison, it remains unresolved as to whether bees can apply size rules when stimuli are encountered successively, which requires reliance on working memory for stimuli comparison. Additionally, the potential ability of bees to extrapolate acquired information to novel sizes beyond training sets remains to be investigated. We tested whether individual free-flying honeybees could learn 'larger/smaller' size rules when visual stimuli were presented successively, and whether such rules could then be extrapolated to novel stimulus sizes. Honeybees were individually trained to a set of four sizes such that individual elements might be correct, or incorrect, depending upon the alternative stimulus. In a learning test, bees preferred the correct size relation for their respective learning group. Bees were also able to successfully extrapolate the learnt relation during transfer tests by maintaining the correct size relationships when considering either two smaller, or two larger, novel stimulus sizes. This performance demonstrates that an insect operating in a complex environment has sufficient cognitive capacity to learn rules that can be abstracted to novel problems. We discuss the possible learning mechanisms which allow their success.

KEYWORDS:

Apis mellifera; Cognition; Concept learning; Extrapolation; Foraging; Working memory

PMID:
28374206
DOI:
10.1007/s10071-017-1086-6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer
Loading ...
Support Center