Home > Papers from 2012 > Visual Attention in Honeybees and Bumblebees

Visual Attention in Honeybees and Bumblebees

The task facing a flower forager, as she tries to best exploit a flower-patch, is a problem of selecting one target from a large array of possible targets. The cues that might indicate a good flower can appear anywhere across the sensory array and so our forager is faced with an attention problem. Either she can shift her visual attention serially across the array or she can attend to the entire array simultaneously in parallel. There is evidence that when humans are faced with similar target detection problems (selecting a target from an array of distractors) their reaction latency increases as more distractors are added. This is seen as evidence for a serial attention process, where possible targets are assessed in turn. Previous studies with honeybees have shown a similar pattern (i.e. response time correlating with number of distractors). Here Morewetz and Spaethe compare honeybees with bumblebees. Interestingly, bumblebee performance does not show the same pattern and they are less influenced by additional distractors, perhaps suggesting a parallel attention to possible targets. The paper includes detailed flight analysis, which shows bumblebees may reduce flight to increase target choice accuracy. The results are discussed with respect to the different optics and ecologies of honeybees and bumblebees.

Linde Morawetz and Johannes Spaethe (2012) Visual attention in a complex search task differs between honeybees and bumblebees J Exp Biol 2012 215:2515-2523. doi:10.1242/jeb.066399

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Categories: Papers from 2012
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