Home > Papers from 2012 > Are there multiple mechanisms for pattern recognition in bees?

Are there multiple mechanisms for pattern recognition in bees?

The basic experiment employed by Dyer and Griffiths was to train bees to select the arm of a Y-maze that indicated by the correct four bar pattern. In one experiment the pattern was presented in the same location (relative to the Y-maze) on each trial. Following this training bees could not transfer their knowledge of the pattern to an identical probe stimuli subtending twice the visual angle. However, in a second experiment, when bees had been trained with a set of subtly varying stimuli that had variable distance from the choice chamber they transferred their knowledge to the larger patterns. The authors suggest that bees must have dual mechanisms for pattern recognition which can be employed flexibly depending on the demands of the current task. Which seems like strong conclusion until we have any mechanistic understanding of either of these “dual mechansims”. It might be that bees are able to choose different frames of reference by which to stabilise their perception of a pattern in such tests. This would be a flexible mechanism, but wouldn’t need modulation between two entirely different processes.

This is another addition to a significant set of experiments, reviewed in a second Dyer paper in this edition of JEB, where behavioural results are used to highlight the “mysterious [!!] cognitive abilities of bees”. Most of these experiments are interesting and highlight important things that we would like to understand. However, I worry when the focus seems to be on proving how complex a mental life bees have – rather than trying to understand the mechanistic basis of that mental life.

Adrian G. Dyer and David W. Griffiths (2012) “Seeing near and seeing far; behavioural evidence for dual mechanisms of pattern vision in the honeybee (Apis mellifera)” J Exp Biol 2012;215 397-404

Adrian G. Dyer (2012) The mysterious cognitive abilities of bees: why models of visual processing need to consider experience and individual differences in animal performance. J Exp Biol 2012;215 387-395

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Categories: Papers from 2012
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