Do miniaturized bees have reduced capacities for visual discrimination and learning Graduate Student: Duell

Project: Research project

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Do miniaturized bees have reduced capacities for visual discrimination and learning Graduate Student: Duell Do miniaturized bees have reduced capacities for visual discrimination and learning? Graduate Student: Duell Do miniaturized bees have reduced capacities for visual discrimination and learning? A majority of organisms on Earth are small. Their size gives them a few physiological and ecological advantages over large animals. However, tiny size impacts metabolism, thermoregulation, respiration, allocation of tissues, reproductive strategies, and perhaps all other necessary physiological functions (Peters 1983; Polilov 2008). Despite advantages, miniaturized taxa must deal with behavioral problems presented by greater demands on considerably fewer cells in all body systems. Additionally, small organisms with ecological demands for complex behavior like learning and navigation are uniquely challenged by size constraints from a cognitive perspective (Eberhard& Wcislo 2011). Surprisingly little work has demonstrated whether small organisms are behaviorally limited due to these issues, though this question is vital to our understanding of behavioral function in most organisms (Eberhard 2007). Stingless bees are an ideal system for studying the effects of small body size because miniaturization has independently evolved in 11 loosely related genera across the clade (Michener 2000). Among 15 species I have collected across the size range, several miniaturized species have proportionally large heads, allowing me to test whether size constraints affect sensory and cognitive components of foraging with an evolutionary comparative approach (personal data). These bees are social, occupy complex tropical areas, and must learn in order to forage. Foraging is an especially demanding activity requiring the integration of visual acuity for identifying floral patterns and higher level processing in flight. Both of these capabilities may be reduced by miniaturization due to spatial limits on eyes and brain tissue. If small bees have small eyes and reduced facets and suboptimal angular arrangement, visual acuity will be lower. Then, bees will alter search strategies in order to differentiate floral patterns. I propose a m
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date1/1/141/31/16

Funding

  • Sigma Xi: $2,385.00

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