Large bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) workers typically visit flowers to collect pollen and nectar during the day and rest in the nest at night. Small workers are less likely to forage, but instead stay in the nest and tend brood around the clock. Because Pigment Dispersing Factor (PDF) has been identified as a neuromodulator in the circadian network of insects, we used an antiserum that recognizes this peptide to compare patterns of PDF-immunoreactivity (PDF-ir) in the brains of large and small workers. Our study provides the first description of PDF distribution in the bumblebee brain, and shows a pattern that is overall similar to that of the honey bee, Apis mellifera. The brains of large bumblebee workers contained a slightly but significantly higher number of PDF-ir neurons than did the brains of small sister bees. Body size was positively correlated with area of the PDF-ir somata and negatively correlated with the maximal staining intensity. These results provide a neuronal correlate to the previously reported body size-associated variation in behavioral circadian rhythmicity. These differences in PDF-ir are consistent with the hypothesis that body size-based division of labor in bumblebees is associated with adaptations of the morphology and function of the brain circadian system.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Stephanie Christine, Omri Tzufim, Yonatan Ben-David, and Noa Kahana for technical assistance. This research was funded by a Binational Science Foundation Award (BSF, Contract Number 2003151) to GB and SEF, and by a German Israeli Foundation Award (GIF, Contract Number I-822-73.1/2004) to GB.
- Bombus terrestris
- Circadian clock
- Division of labor
- Pigment Dispersing Factor
- Social behavior