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Approach Direction Prior to Landing Explains Patterns of Colour Learning in Bees

Langridge, Keri V. and Wilke, Claudia and Riabinina, Olena and Vorobyev, Misha and Hempel de Ibarra, Natalie (2021) 'Approach Direction Prior to Landing Explains Patterns of Colour Learning in Bees.', Frontiers in Physiology, 12 . p. 697886.


Gaze direction is closely coupled with body movement in insects and other animals. If movement patterns interfere with the acquisition of visual information, insects can actively adjust them to seek relevant cues. Alternatively, where multiple visual cues are available, an insect’s movements may influence how it perceives a scene. We show that the way a foraging bumblebee approaches a floral pattern could determine what it learns about the pattern. When trained to vertical bicoloured patterns, bumblebees consistently approached from below centre in order to land in the centre of the target where the reward was located. In subsequent tests, the bees preferred the colour of the lower half of the pattern that they predominantly faced during the approach and landing sequence. A predicted change of learning outcomes occurred when the contrast line was moved up or down off-centre: learned preferences again reflected relative frontal exposure to each colour during the approach, independent of the overall ratio of colours. This mechanism may underpin learning strategies in both simple and complex visual discriminations, highlighting that morphology and action patterns determines how animals solve sensory learning tasks. The deterministic effect of movement on visual learning may have substantially influenced the evolution of floral signals, particularly where plants depend on fine-scaled movements of pollinators on flowers.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:© 2021 Langridge, Wilke, Riabinina, Vorobyev and Hempel de Ibarra. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.
Date accepted:02 November 2021
Date deposited:09 May 2022
Date of first online publication:08 December 2021
Date first made open access:09 May 2022

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