Home > Papers from 2012 > Is there a role for variability in the waggle dance?

Is there a role for variability in the waggle dance?

As a honeybee forager dances to pass on information about the direction and distance of a profitable patch, she will perform multiple waggle runs within a dance bout. There will naturally be some variation in the direction and distance indicated by different waggle runs, which raises the question as to whether this variation could be adaptive. It is possible that dancing bees are actually trying to recruit foragers to a region, rather than a specific location.

Couvillon et al have addressed this debate with a detailed analysis of the within-dance variability. They found that dances that are vertical have less variation than dances that are horizontal. Given that the variation is dependent on the dance orientation relative to gravity, it seems that the variation is a mechanistic constraint rather than an adaptive property.

Margaret J. Couvillon, Hunter L. F. Phillipps, Roger Schürch, and Francis L. W. Ratnieks (2012) Working against gravity: horizontal honeybee waggle runs have greater angular scatter than vertical waggle runs. Biol. Lett. rsbl20120182;

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