Are insects flower constant because they use search images to find flowers?

Goulson, Dave (2000) Are insects flower constant because they use search images to find flowers? Oikos, 88 (3). pp. 547-552. ISSN 0030-1299

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Abstract

Many insects which gather nectar or pollen exhibit flower constancy, a learned fidelity to a particular species of plant. Recent studies suggest that foraging insects may use a perceptual mechanism akin to a search image to detect flowers, in a manner analogous to the way that predators search for prey. This has emerged as an alternative (but not mutually exclusive) explanation for flower constancy to that proposed by Darwin, who suggested that it may result from a limited ability to learning or remember the handling skills appropriate for particular flowers. However, search images are thought to be a mechanism for locating cryptic prey. Plants which are pollinated by animals have evolved brightly coloured flowers to attract the attention of their pollinators. It thus seems implausible to argue that flowers may actually be cryptic. One possible explanation for this apparent contradiction is that flowers are effectively cryptic when viewed against a background which contains many other flowers of similar colour. I present experimental evidence which suggests that a background of flowers of similar colour does reduce foraging efficiency of bumblebees, but that a background of dissimilarly coloured flowers has no effect. This I interpret as evidence that flowers may be cryptic, suggesting that pollinators may indeed use a search image in location of flowers. However, the relative importance of constraints on foragers' abilities to locate flowers versus their abilities to handle them as causes of flower constancy remain to be elucidated.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Life Sciences > Evolution, Behaviour and Environment
Depositing User: Catrina Hey
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2014 10:00
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2014 10:00
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/51293
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