Intelligent bumblebees can learn to pull strings

This video says about itself:

Social learning and cultural transmission in bees

Footage shows a pair of bees (the seeded demonstrator and an observer) tested with the string pulling task in Colony 8. The red dot indicates the seeded demonstrator. The observer has not learned string pulling yet but has already been tested three times in paired foraging bouts. The demonstrator lands at the edge of the table, repositions herself in front of the string, and starts pulling immediately.

The observer is first attracted to the blue flower and lands on top of the table. The observer subsequently flies to the demonstrator, lands at her side, and walks to the nearby flower and string. She walks along the protruding string, reaches the table edge, and moves sideways. She notices the demonstrator and walks to her side, moving around her whilst the demonstrator is pulling, always in close contact.

The observer touches the string a few times but does not grasp it. The demonstrator eventually extracts the blue disk and steps onto it. The observer copies the demonstrator. They both slide the flower from under the table and obtain the reward.

Once the first pulled flower is depleted, the demonstrator moves to the nearest flower and pulls the string. The observer stays on the extracted flower for a short period, circling, probing the emptied inverted cap before noticing the demonstrator drinking from a second flower and joining her. In a similar way, once the second pulled flower is emptied, the demonstrator moves and pulls a third flower and the observer joins her. Her crop filled up, the demonstrator flies back to the colony.

From PLOS Biology:

Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect

October 4, 2016


Social insects make elaborate use of simple mechanisms to achieve seemingly complex behavior and may thus provide a unique resource to discover the basic cognitive elements required for culture, i.e., group-specific behaviors that spread from “innovators” to others in the group via social learning. We first explored whether bumblebees can learn a nonnatural object manipulation task by using string pulling to access a reward that was presented out of reach. Only a small minority “innovated” and solved the task spontaneously, but most bees were able to learn to pull a string when trained in a stepwise manner.

In addition, naïve bees learnt the task by observing a trained demonstrator from a distance. Learning the behavior relied on a combination of simple associative mechanisms and trial-and-error learning and did not require “insight”: naïve bees failed a “coiled-string experiment,” in which they did not receive instant visual feedback of the target moving closer when tugging on the string.

In cultural diffusion experiments, the skill spread rapidly from a single knowledgeable individual to the majority of a colony’s foragers. We observed that there were several sequential sets (“generations”) of learners, so that previously naïve observers could first acquire the technique by interacting with skilled individuals and, subsequently, themselves become demonstrators for the next “generation” of learners, so that the longevity of the skill in the population could outlast the lives of informed foragers. This suggests that, so long as animals have a basic toolkit of associative and motor learning processes, the key ingredients for the cultural spread of unusual skills are already in place and do not require sophisticated cognition.

Author Summary

Social insects make use of simple mechanisms to achieve many seemingly complex behaviors and thus may be able to provide a unique resource for uncovering the basic cognitive elements required for culture. Here, we first show that bumblebees can be trained to pull a string to access a reward, but most could not learn on their own. Naïve bees learned how to pull strings by observing trained demonstrators from a distance.

Learning the behavior through observation relied on bees paying attention to both the string and the position of the trained demonstrator bee while pulling the string. We then tested whether bees could pass this information to others during a semi-natural situation involving several colonies. We found that once one bee knew how to string pull, over time, most of the foraging bees learned from the initially trained bee or from bees who had learned from the trained bee, even after the initial demonstrator was no longer available. These results suggest that learning a nonnatural task in bumblebees can spread culturally through populations.

These bumblebees were Bombus terrestris, large earth bumblebees.

Primitive signs of emotions spotted in sugar-buzzed bumblebees. After a treat, insects appeared to have rosier outlooks. By Emily Underwood, 2:00pm, September 29, 2016: here.

Sea cucumber biology, video

This video says about itself:

30 September 2016

In this entertaining short video, Jonathan explains the basic biology of sea cucumbers. A sea cucumber is a relative of starfish and sea urchins contained within the phylum Echinodermata.

Barnacles’ information about whales

This video from California in the USA says about itself:

Rare Blue Whale with Many Barnacles

9 July 2015

Just very close and shallow to the shore of the Torrey Pines Cliffs, with the depth of between 150 and 200 feet, the blue whale had so many black specks all over its body! It also had a dorsal fin that had been torn off and shaped like a sickle! It is very unusual for a blue whale to have very many barnacles.

From Science News:

Barnacles track whale migration

Chemical composition of hitchhikers’ shells might reveal ancient baleen travel routes

By Thomas Sumner

12:01pm, September 27, 2016

DENVER — Barnacles can tell a whale of a tale. Chemical clues inside barnacles that hitched rides on baleen whales millions of years ago could divulge ancient whale migration routes, new research suggests.

Modern baleen whales migrate thousands of kilometers annually between breeding and feeding grounds, but almost nothing is known about how these epic journeys have changed over time. Scientists can glean where an aquatic animal has lived based on its teeth. The mix of oxygen isotopes embedded inside newly formed tooth material depends on the region and local temperature, with more oxygen-18 used near the poles than near the equator. That oxygen provides a timeline of the animal’s travels. Baleen whales don’t have teeth, though. So paleobiologists Larry Taylor and Seth Finnegan, both of the University of California, Berkeley, looked at something else growing on whales: barnacles. Like teeth, barnacle shells take in oxygen as they grow.

Patterns of oxygen isotopes in layers of barnacle shells collected from modern beached whales matched known whale migration routes, Taylor said September 25 at the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. Five-million-year-old barnacle fossils have analogous oxygen isotope changes, preliminary results suggest. Converting those changes into migration maps, however, will require reconstructing how oxygen isotopes were distributed long ago, Taylor said.

Butterflies, other wildlife, of Pitztal, Austria

This 2016 video is about butterflies, and other wildlife like birds and tadpoles, of the Pitztal valley in Austria.

Butterfly feeding in Austria, video

This video is about a large wall brown butterfly feeding on nectar in the Pitztal valley in Austria.

Small crabs eating king ragworm

This 27 September 2016 video shows young shore crabs attacking, and eating, a king ragworm.

Ciska van Geer made this video during low tide off the Boschplaat on Terschelling island in the Netherlands.

Marbled orb-weaver spider couple asleep

This video from the USA says about itself:

26 September 2016

These attractive male and female Marbled Orb Weavers are taking a daytime nap together. The male has attached his “mating thread” across her web and I anticipated much spider action later, but alas other than a few tosses and turns as they slept in their webs when nighttime came they did not mate for at least a few hours and I was denied the chance to see Ms. Orb Weaver partake of Mr Orb Weaver – his last meal. I may lack the patience required for this video task.

How do they reproduce?

There is little information about the mating habits of marbled orb-weavers, although they may behave similarly to other members of their genus (Araneus). Females of these species emit pheromones to attract mates. To court mates, males spin a “mating-thread” across the female’s web. The male moves towards the female across this thread, plucking and vibrating it, and the female approaches him. The male touches the front of the female’s body with his legs, stroking her, until she hangs from the mating thread. Mating takes place in late summer and males mate several times. In some species of orb-weaving spiders, females eat their mates after breeding, this includes European garden spiders, which are closely related and live in the same area. Marbled orb-weavers may also do this; however, males mate multiple times and often survive mating, so cannibalism may not be as common in this species.