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Assessing flexible information use in the European honey bee (Apis mellifera)

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posted on 2022-03-28, 19:09 authored by Faelan Mourmourakis
The European honeybee (Apis mellifera) has been shown to be capable of solving a wide range of cognitive tasks. It is currently unknown what the limitations of their cognitive abilities are. Given the bee has a relatively tiny brain with less than one million neurons, it is surprising that these limitations have not been well characterised. To explore the nature of limits to bee cognition here we explored the capacity of bees to solve conflicting information in two different delayed conditional discriminations and a sequential conditional discrimination. In addition we explored whether there was any evidence of bees learning from their errors by assessing for a post-error slowing effect, a phenomenon found in vertebrates. These general learning abilities underpin a range of cognitive tasks, and have been considered hallmarks of intelligent behaviour. It was found that bees performed above chance levels in all three discrimination tasks, with their accuracy improving over learning trials, demonstrating that bees are capable of resolving conflicting information using conditional information. The reaction time in post-error trials were found to not display a significant slowing phenomenon. This suggests that animals with small brains can adapt to conflicting information but with some limitations in that they do not adapt their behaviour to their errors.


Table of Contents

1 Introduction -- 2 General Methods and Pilot Studies -- 3 Conditional Discrimination -- 4 The Post-Error Slowing Effect -- 5 Conclusion


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography pages 50-61

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Science and Engineering, Department of Biological Sciences

Department, Centre or School

Department of Biological Sciences

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Andrew Barron


Copyright Faelan Mourmouraki 2020




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