According to research, bumblebees’ memories are poor but useful

Bumblebees don’t seem to remember how sweet a flower was, but rather only remember if it was sweeter than another flower, claim researchers at Queen Mary University of London and an international group of scientists.

Bumblebees were initially trained on two flowers in a recent study that was published in the journal eLife, where they discovered that one flower was sweeter than the other. They later discovered that the third flower was sweeter than the fourth. Then, bumblebees were given the option of two flowers that they had never previously seen together, such as the second and third or the first and third.

Bumblebee preferences during tests revealed that they could only hold onto very simple ranking memories for the flowers for an extended period of time. During the training phase, the bumblebees could only recall whether a flower had improved or declined. The flowers’ inherent sweetness or satisfaction, or even how much sweeter they were in comparison to other flowers, seemed to escape the bees’ memories after only a few minutes.

According to earlier studies, humans actually retain memories for both comparisons and absolute information (such as how sweet something is) [Palminteri and Lebreton, 2021]. The only other animal whose memory has been studied for this question is the European starling, which uses both absolute and comparative information to remember options [Pompilio and Kacelnik, 2010].

“Our results reveal an intriguing divergent mechanism for how bumblebees retain and use information about options, compared to humans and birds,” says Ms. Yonghe Zhou, co-lead author of the paper and a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London.

Senior author Prof. Fei Peng, who works at Southern Medical University in China, says that it’s possible that the different tactics used by bumblebees and people have evolved as a result of their divergent diets. Bumblebees may not have needed to remember the specifics because they primarily evolved to consume flower nectar, allowing them to survive and thrive with the aid of straightforward comparisons.

“Despite what might appear to be a subpar memory strategy, bumblebees do very well in finding the most lucrative flowers,” continues Ms. Yonghe. It’s amazing to think about how various animals can use such disparate tactics and still succeed in their own ecological niches.

(source : ANI)

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