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The structure of navigation memory in an insect, the honeybee (talk recording available)
Dr. Randolf Menzel
Tuesday, October 13, 2009, 01:00pm - 02:00pm
Freie Universitat Berlin, Institut fur Biologie - Neurobiologie
Honeybees explore the environment around their nest before taking up foraging activities. The memory established during these orientation flights allows them to travel novel routes, and to decide between different destinations. One way of conceptualizing the structure of spatial memory in bees is to assume integration of long ranging flight vectors, and decision making between options resulting from different vector integration processes. I shall present data from experiments in which we used tracing of flight paths with a harmonic radar system. The animals were trained to one or two feeding sites and received vector information from dancing bees. Bees visiting two feeding sites fly to either one of the feeding sites or the hive along novel routes. Animals that received vector information during dance communication integrated this information into their own knowledge of flights paths and flew novel routes to between the known place and the communicated place. These and other results indicate that communicated vector information and learned routes are integrated in such a way that decisions are made between locations to be visited and along which route.
The data can also be understood to document a map-like structure of spatial memory. In the context of such a model communicated vector information would inform the animal about a location (and not just a flight path), and decisions between locations will be made according to the most economical flight performance and the reliability of the information available to guide the flight towards the respective location.