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How Honeybees Read the Waggle Dance

Summary: A new study investigates how interneurons in the auditory center of the honeybee brain respond to waggle dance like vibrations.

Source: SfN.

Neurons that enable honeybees to sense the waggle dance — a form of symbolic communication used by female bees to inform the hivemates about the location of a food source — are investigated in new research published in JNeurosci.

Upon returning to the hive, female working bees perform a dance that represents the distance and direction of nectar-rich flowers. Since the waggle dance was first described in 1967 (and its discovery awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973), it has remained unknown how the honeybee brain deciphers the dance into useful information.

Hiroyuki Ai and colleagues raised honeybees in hives on the Fukuoka University campus in Japan to study how three major types of interneurons in the auditory center of the honeybee brain respond to vibration pulses similar to those produced during the waggle phase of the dance. Their work lays a foundation for understanding how social insects process symbolic communication.

honeybees

Left: To inform their hivemates about the location of profitable flowers, a honeybee performs the waggle dance with specific vibration patterns. Right: Composite image of three interneurons in the honeybee brain which show unique responses to such vibrations. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Ai et al.

About this neuroscience research article

Source: David Barnstone – SfN
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Ai et al.
Original Research: Abstract for “Interneurons in the honeybee primary auditory center responding to waggle dance-like vibration pulses” by Hiroyuki Ai, Kazuki Kai, Ajayrama Kumaraswamy, Hidetoshi Ikeno and Thomas Wachtler in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online October 9 2017 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0044-17.2017

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article
SfN. “How Honeybees Read the Waggle Dance.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 9 October 2017.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/honeybee-waggle-dance-7697/>.
SfN. (2017, October 9). How Honeybees Read the Waggle Dance. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved October 9, 2017 from http://neurosciencenews.com/honeybee-waggle-dance-7697/
SfN. “How Honeybees Read the Waggle Dance.” http://neurosciencenews.com/honeybee-waggle-dance-7697/ (accessed October 9, 2017).

Abstract

Interneurons in the honeybee primary auditory center responding to waggle dance-like vibration pulses

Female honeybees use the ‘waggle dance’ to communicate the location of nectar sources to their hive mates. Distance information is encoded in the duration of the waggle phase (von Frisch, 1967). During the waggle phase the dancer produces trains of vibration pulses, which are detected by the follower bees via Johnston’s organ located on the antennae. To uncover the neural mechanisms underlying the encoding of distance information in the waggle dance follower, we investigated morphology, physiology, and immunohistochemistry of interneurons arborizing in the primary auditory center of the honeybee (Apis mellifera). We identified major interneuron types, DL-Int-1, DL-Int-2, and Bilateral DL-dSEG-LP, that responded with different spiking patterns to vibration pulses applied to the antennae. Experimental and computational analyses suggest that inhibitory connection plays a role in encoding and processing the duration of vibration pulse trains in the primary auditory center of the honeybee.

SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT

The waggle dance represents a form of symbolic communication used by honeybees to convey the location of food sources via species-specific sound. The brain mechanisms used to decipher this symbolic information are unknown. We examined interneurons in the honeybee primary auditory center and identified different neuron types with specific properties. The results of our computational analyses suggest that inhibitory connection plays a role in encoding waggle dance signals. Our results are critical for understanding how the honeybee deciphers information from the sound produced by the waggle dance and provide new insights regarding how common neural mechanisms are used by different species to achieve communication.

“Interneurons in the honeybee primary auditory center responding to waggle dance-like vibration pulses” by Hiroyuki Ai, Kazuki Kai, Ajayrama Kumaraswamy, Hidetoshi Ikeno and Thomas Wachtler in Journal of Neuroscience. Published online October 9 2017 doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0044-17.2017

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