Monitoring circadian rhythms of individual honey bees in a social environment reveals social influences on postembryonic ontogeny of activity rhythms

A. Meshi, G. Bloch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations

Abstract

Social factors constitute an important component of the environment of many animals and have a profound influence on their physiology and behavior. Studies of social influences on circadian rhythms have been hampered by a methodological trade-off: automatic data acquisition systems obtain high-quality data but are effective only for individually isolated animals and therefore compromise by requiring a context that may not be sociobiologically relevant. Human observers can monitor animal activity in complex social environments but are limited in the resolution and quality of data that can be gathered. The authors developed and validated a method for prolonged, automatic, high-quality monitoring of focal honey bees in a relatively complex social environment and with minimal illumination. The method can be adapted for studies on other animals. The authors show that the system provides a reliable estimation of the actual path of a focal bee, only rarely misses its location for > 1 min, and removes most nonspecific signals from the background. Using this system, the authors provide the first evidence of social influence on the ontogeny of activity rhythms. Young bees that were housed with old foragers show ∼24-h rhythms in locomotor activity at a younger age and with stronger rhythms than bees housed with a similar number of young bees. By contrast, the maturation of the hypopharyngeal glands was slower in bees housed with foragers, similar to findings in previous studies. The morphology and function of the hypopharyngeal glands vary along with age-based division of labor. Therefore, these findings indicate that social inhibition of task-related maturation was effective in the experimental setup. This study suggests that although the ontogeny of circadian rhythms is typically correlated with the age-based division of labor, their social regulation is different.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)343-355
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Biological Rhythms
Volume22
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2007

Keywords

  • Apis mellifera
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Division of labor
  • Ontogeny
  • Pattern-recognition
  • Social

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