Working against gravity: horizontal honeybee waggle runs have greater angular scatter than vertical waggle runs

Couvillon, Margaret J, Phillipps, Hunter L F, Schürch, Roger and Ratnieks, Francis L W (2012) Working against gravity: horizontal honeybee waggle runs have greater angular scatter than vertical waggle runs. Biology Letters. ISSN 1744-9561

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Abstract

The presence of noise in a communication system may be adaptive or may reflect unavoidable constraints. One communication system where these alternatives are debated is the honeybee (Apis mellifera) waggle dance. Successful foragers communicate resource locations to nest-mates by a dance comprising repeated units (waggle runs), which repetitively transmit the same distance and direction vector from the nest. Intra-dance waggle run variation occurs and has been hypothesized as a colony-level adaptation to direct recruits over an area rather than a single location. Alternatively, variation may simply be due to constraints on bees' abilities to orient waggle runs. Here, we ask whether the angle at which the bee dances on vertical comb influences waggle run variation. In particular, we determine whether horizontal dances, where gravity is not aligned with the waggle run orientation, are more variable in their directional component. We analysed 198 dances from foragers visiting natural resources and found support for our prediction. More horizontal dances have greater angular variation than dances performed close to vertical. However, there is no effect of waggle run angle on variation in the duration of waggle runs, which communicates distance. Our results weaken the hypothesis that variation is adaptive and provide novel support for the constraint hypothesis.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: As of yet only published online
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Subjects: Q Science > QL Zoology > QL0360 Invertebrates > QL0434 Arthropoda > QL0463 Insects
Depositing User: Margaret Couvillon
Date Deposited: 09 May 2012 10:56
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2017 12:18
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/38743

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