Boldest Honeybees Have Bold Brains | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 11 | pp. 52-53 | Concentrates
Issue Date: March 12, 2012

Boldest Honeybees Have Bold Brains

Genomic analysis shows the molecular basis of risk-taking behavior extends to bees
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: bees, whole genome analysis, gene expression, behavior
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A honeybee scouts the food potential of a hyacinth bean flower.A honeybee scouts the food potential of a hyacinth bean flower.
Credit: Zachary Huang/beetography.com
Labeled scout bee checks out food in hyacinth bean flower.
 
A honeybee scouts the food potential of a hyacinth bean flower.A honeybee scouts the food potential of a hyacinth bean flower.
Credit: Zachary Huang/beetography.com
[+]Enlarge
Credit: Zachary Huang/beetography.com
Back at the hive, risk-taking bee scout (above) shares bounty with another forager bee.
 
Credit: Zachary Huang/beetography.com

The boldest foraging honeybees in the hive have dramatically different brain chemistries than their more timid counterparts, according to Gene E. Robinson and Zhengzheng S. Liang of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues. In addition, these researchers found that thrill-seeking bees can be rendered less so, and that timid bees can be compelled to become risk takers, by administering doses of various biomolecules (Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1213962). The team performed whole-genome-sequencing analyses of two groups of foraging bees: those that engaged in novelty-seeking behavior, such as scouting independently for food and new hive locations, and those that did not. The team observed that the gene activity in the thriller bees differs from the others, affecting biochemical pathways involving catecholamine, glutamate, and γ-aminobutyric acid signaling. All of these molecules are implicated in similar bold behaviors in vertebrates, they note. When the meek bees were treated with glutamate and octopamine, their risk-taking behavior increased. And the bold bees’ behavior settled down when dopamine signaling was blocked in their brains. “It looks like the same molecular pathways have been engaged repeatedly in evolution to give rise to individual differences in novelty seeking,” Robinson says.

 
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ISSN 0009-2347
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