My research concerns the question if honeybees (Apis mellifera) show consistent individual differences in their learning ability. Honeybees are perfectly suitable for such studies since they have long been used as model organism for learning and memory and consequently there are numerous well-established protocols to assess their learning performance. Furthermore, the brain of the honeybee is well assayed which allows to correlate individual differences in learning behavior to the individual brain structure. I will test bees in a variety of learning paradigms involving either different sensory modalities (visual, olfactory, tactile) or different reinforcements (appetitive vs. aversive) and which require different cognitive requirements. Additionally, I want to examine if consistent individual differences can be linked to genetic differences, differences in sucrose responsiveness and preceding experience. Demonstrating correlated cognitive performances in individual honeybees would challenge the classical view that invertebrates are merely “reflex machines” which only stereotypically respond to stimuli. Furthermore, such potential findings would stretch the importance of considering individual differences as important factor accounting for variability in the cognitive abilities of invertebrates. Identifying underlying factors of differences in cognitive abilities such as correlated differences in genetic, neuroanatomical or previous experience would pave the way for a deeper understanding of the underlying mechanisms of cognitive abilities in honeybees.
Finke, V., Baracchi, D., Giurfa, M., Scheiner, R., & Avarguès-Weber, A. Evidence of cognitive specialization in an insect: proficiency is maintained across elemental and higher-order visual learning but not between sensory modalities in honey bees. Journal of Experimental Biology, 224(24), jeb242470. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.242470
Avarguès-Weber, A., d’Amaro, D., Metzler, M., Finke, V., Baracchi, D., & Dyer, A. G. Does Holistic Processing Require a Large Brain? Insights From Honeybees and Wasps in Fine Visual Recognition Tasks. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01313
Bukovac, Z., Dorin, A., Finke, V., Shrestha, M., Garcia, J., Avarguès-Weber, A., Burd, M., Schramme, J., & Dyer, A. Assessing the ecological significance of bee visual detection and colour discrimination on the evolution of flower colours. Evolutionary Ecology, 31(2), 153-172. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10682-016-9843-6