Friday, November 21, 2008

smarter bumblebee, stronger immune system


Bumblebee colonies which are fast learners are also better able to fight off infection, according to scientists from Queen Mary, University of London and the University of Leicester.
these scientists tested the learning performance and immune responses of bumblebees from twelve colonies.
The team tested the ability of 180 bees to learn that yellow flowers provided the biggest nectar rewards, and to ignore blue flowers. To test the evolutionary relationship between learning and immunity, they also took workers from the same colonies and tested their immune response against bacterial infection.
Like humans, bees’ ability to learn appears reduced when they are ill. The prediction was that good learners would be worse at fighting infections – but surprisingly, this was not the case.
the team reported a positive relationship between a bumblebee colony’s learning performance and their immune response. Bees from fast learning colonies are not only the best nectar collectors, but also better able to fight infections. These colonies are probably much better equipped to thrive under difficult conditions.
The team expected that immunity is likely to be a really important trait in social species (like bumblebees, honeybees and ants) that have high-contact rates with closely related individuals leading to a greater chance of infection.
The team found a positive correlation between the ability of a colony’s workers to learn and the strength of their immune response, so there was no evidence for an evolutionary trade-off between these traits. These essential pollinators learn many things in their short life and fight off a range of infections to survive.


Hessom Minaei (10)

update

As nectar levels in flowers change from minute-to-minute, faster learning bees are more likely to keep track of which blooms are most rewarding, and thrive as a result. Dr Nigel Raine and Professor Lars Chittka from Queen Mary’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences presented these bumblebee colonies with flight arenas containing blue and yellow artificial flowers, which were stocked with different amounts of nectar reward. The bees were challenged to overcome their natural preference for ‘blue’ flowers, and to learn that the ‘yellow’ flowers were more rewarding. The team found that the colonies which learned colours quickly, were more successful foragers. Rather like us, some bees learn from their mistakes more quickly than others. These faster learning bees also collect more nectar from flowers, which ultimately means their colony will be more successful.

16 Comments:

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think that thier ability to learn, therefore getting more/better food, is what gives them better immune systems? having better nutrition helps humans fight illness, so this could be the same in bees. very interesting article.

Erica Damon

 
At 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who would of thought. This is very interesting. Do you think that because they are fast learners, maybe it has helped them to stay away from these illnesses and/or has helped them learn to fight them even when not at their best ability. It is a great ability for them to have evolved considering their close proximity with many other bees. I could only imagine how many humans would get sick being in such tight quarters with one being sick.

Katie Cole

 
At 4:01 PM, Blogger PWH said...

I am not surprised that there would be a positive correlation between the ability to develop immunities and the amount of learning of the species. If the bees learned more, they are better collectors and risk more contact to things that can affect their health. However, this contact can also allow them to develop immunities that the bees without having contacted these endangerments (because they had not learned) will not have.

-Helen Thi

 
At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How did the scientists test the ability of the 180 bees to learn that yellow flowers provided the biggest nectar rewards, and to ignore blue flowers?

They took workers from the same colonies and tested their immune response against bacterial infection. Within a bumblebee colony, is the positive correlation between the ability to learn and the strength of immune response only for a worker bee? What about the drones? I think that they would not have a positive correlation because they do not forage.

SUSAN DUONG

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger Cecelia said...

This is really interesting. Did the researchers suggest why the two are related? I don't quite get why learning is correlated to immune systems. Do they have better immune systems because they are better learners, or are they better learners because they have good immune systems?

-Cecelia Hunt

 
At 7:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't figure out how they thought there was a negative correlation between learning and fighting infection. With what we've learned in the class it seems to make sense that increased brain activity would be a good thing for our neural network and this rest of our body.

Allan Eldridge

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger PWH said...

This is interesting. I wonder if being able to learn gives them a good immune system or having a good immune system helps them learn? I would expect it to be that since they are healthy they are better able to learn. So, how exactly was this experiment carried out? I think it is so amazing that scientists can figure such interesting animal behaviors.

Chantal Gomes

 
At 7:35 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Do you think it could be the large nectar returns of the yellow flower that are boosting the bees immune system? How did they measure learning performance?What were the parameters they studied? I wonder what the bees are more susceptible to...can bees get the flu? That has nothing to do with your article, but perhaps the bees who harvest the yellow flowers are less prone to develop a cold. I digress. Thank you for making me aware of bees immune systems.

-Amanda Sceusa

 
At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How do bumble bees learn? Us, we learn from previous infections. Our bodies build antigens for the diseases we had previously to prepare for later attacks. Is it similar in bumble bees? how does one colony do better over the other?

-Yi, Jeongsang

 
At 11:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting, May the fast learning bumblebee has a better immune system because of the food source they get. I mean if these bumblebee are able to learn which flowers produce more or better honey then, in a sense they get the better quality resources and there for they immune system also improve. Not sure but just a thought.

Tenzing Y. Dundutsang

 
At 11:41 PM, Anonymous Jen Kodela said...

How did they infect the bees? and were they infected with more than one type of virus? Has this been found in other colonizing insects as well, or was it just proposed that there would be similar results.

 
At 11:53 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Nice Article. It makes sense that better food quality provides a better immune system and a healthier population. How do the bees know how to prevent illness and the spread of illness? Does more nectar result in a healthier life for bees?

-Carlos Varela

 
At 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never thought that bumblebees might have great immune systems. You'd think that we, humans, would have as good immune systems as we do since the reason for having such a good immune system was a large amount of social interactions... We humans are probably one of the most social animals alive. Do you think that their diet creates this great ability? How did this trait come to evolve?

 
At 11:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never thought that bumblebees might have great immune systems. You'd think that we, humans, would have as good immune systems as we do since the reason for having such a good immune system was a large amount of social interactions... We humans are probably one of the most social animals alive. Do you think that their diet creates this great ability? How did this trait come to evolve?

Brena Sena

 
At 1:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is interesting, and it makes a bunch of sense considering how important being with one another is to each individuals life. What kind of bacterial infection was used? Was it the same per species tested, or was it a bacteria that was known to some of the species and not to others, or had it never been used against them before?

Ada Marie Flores

 
At 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i was wondering how the scientists actually went about to test the correlation between learning and their immune system? What kind of experiment did they set up?

Tazneena Ishaque

 

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