University of Oulu

Cwyn Solvi, Yonghe Zhou, Yunxiao Feng, Yuyi Lu, Mark Roper, Li Sun, Rebecca J Reid, Lars Chittka, Andrew B Barron, Fei Peng (2022) Bumblebees retrieve only the ordinal ranking of foraging options when comparing memories obtained in distinct settings eLife 11:e78525.

Bumblebees retrieve only the ordinal ranking of foraging options when comparing memories obtained in distinct settings

Saved in:
Author: Solvi, Cwyn1,2; Zhou, Yonghe1,3; Feng, Yunxiao1;
Organizations: 1Department of Psychology, School of Public Health, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China
2Ecology and Genetics Research Unit, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
3Biological and Experimental Psychology, School of Biological and Behavioural Sciences, Queen Mary University of London, London, United Kingdom
4Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia
5Department of Psychiatry, Zhujiang Hospital, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China
6Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area Center for Brain Science and Brain-Inspired Intelligence, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.8 MB)
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: eLife Sciences Publications, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-10-07


Are animals’ preferences determined by absolute memories for options (e.g. reward sizes) or by their remembered ranking (better/worse)? The only studies examining this question suggest humans and starlings utilise memories for both absolute and relative information. We show that bumblebees’ learned preferences are based only on memories of ordinal comparisons. A series of experiments showed that after learning to discriminate pairs of different flowers by sucrose concentration, bumblebees preferred flowers (in novel pairings) with (1) higher ranking over equal absolute reward, (2) higher ranking over higher absolute reward, and (3) identical qualitative ranking but different quantitative ranking equally. Bumblebees used absolute information in order to rank different flowers. However, additional experiments revealed that, even when ranking information was absent (i.e. bees learned one flower at a time), memories for absolute information were lost or could no longer be retrieved after at most 1 hr. Our results illuminate a divergent mechanism for bees (compared to starlings and humans) of learned preferences that may have arisen from different adaptations to their natural environment.

see all

Series: eLife
ISSN: 2050-084X
ISSN-E: 2050-084X
ISSN-L: 2050-084X
Volume: 11
Article number: e7852
DOI: 10.7554/eLife.78525
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 119 Other natural sciences
Funding: National Natural Science Foundation of China (31700988), National Natural Science Foundation of China (31970994), Key-Area Research and Development Program of Guangdong Province, China (2018B030340001), Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF-2020-0539), China Scholarship Council (202008440515). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Copyright information: © Solvi, Zhou et al. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.