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Title: Appetitive reversal learning differences of two honey bee subspecies with different foraging behaviors
We aimed to examine mechanistically the observed foraging differences across two honey bee, Apis mellifera , subspecies using the proboscis extension response assay. Specifically, we compared differences in appetitive reversal learning ability between honey bee subspecies: Apis mellifera caucasica (Pollman), and Apis mellifera syriaca (Skorikov) in a “common garden” apiary. It was hypothesized that specific learning differences could explain previously observed foraging behavior differences of these subspecies: A.m. caucasica switches between different flower color morphs in response to reward variability, and A.m. syriaca does not switch. We suggest that flower constancy allows reduced exposure by minimizing search and handling time, whereas plasticity is important when maximizing harvest in preparation for long winter is at a premium. In the initial or Acquisition phase of the test we examined specifically discrimination learning, where bees were trained to respond to a paired conditioned stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus and not to respond to a second conditioned stimulus that is not followed by an unconditioned stimulus. We found no significant differences among the subspecies in the Acquisition phase in appetitive learning. During the second, Reversal phase of the experiment, where flexibility in association was tested, the paired and unpaired conditioned stimuli were reversed. During more » the Reversal phase A.m. syriaca showed a reduced ability to learn the reverse association in the appetitive learning task. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that A.m. syriaca foragers cannot change the foraging choice because of lack of flexibility in appetitive associations under changing contingencies. Interestingly, both subspecies continued responding to the previously rewarded conditioned stimulus in the reversal phase. We discuss potential ecological correlates and molecular underpinnings of these differences in learning across the two subspecies. In addition, in a supplemental experiment we demonstrated that these differences in appetitive reversal learning do not occur in other learning contexts. « less
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1633184 1707355
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National Science Foundation
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