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Coordinating compass-based and nest-based flight directions during bumblebee learning and return flights.

Authors
  • Collett, Thomas S
  • de Ibarra, Natalie Hempel
  • Riabinina, Olena
  • Philippides, Andrew
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of Experimental Biology
Publisher
The Company of Biologists
Publication Date
Mar 15, 2013
Volume
216
Issue
Pt 6
Pages
1105–1113
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1242/jeb.081463
PMID: 23447669
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Bumblebees tend to face their nest over a limited range of compass directions when learning the nest's location on departure and finding it on their approach after foraging. They thus obtain similar views of the nest and its surroundings on their learning and return flights. How do bees coordinate their flights relative to nest-based and compass-based reference frames to get such similar views? We show, first, that learning and return flights contain straight segments that are directed along particular compass bearings, which are independent of the orientation of a bee's body. Bees are thus free within limits to adjust their viewing direction relative to the nest, without disturbing flight direction. Second, we examine the coordination of nest-based and compass-based control during likely information gathering segments of these flights: loops during learning flights and zigzags on return flights. We find that bees tend to start a loop or zigzag when flying within a restricted range of compass directions and to fly towards the nest and face it after a fixed change in compass direction, without continuous interactions between their nest-based and compass-based directions of flight. A preferred trajectory of compass-based flight over the course of a motif, combined with the tendency of the bees to keep their body oriented towards the nest automatically narrows the range of compass directions over which bees view the nest. Additionally, the absence of interactions between the two reference frames allows loops and zigzags to have a stereotyped form that can generate informative visual feedback.

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