TitleAdaptive evolution of honeybee dance dialects.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsKohl PL, Thulasi N, Rutschmann B, George EA, Steffan-Dewenter I, Brockmann A
JournalProc Biol Sci
Date Published2020 Mar 11

Efficient communication is highly important for the evolutionary success of social animals. Honeybees (genus ) are unique in that they communicate the spatial information of resources using a symbolic 'language', the waggle dance. Different honeybee species differ in foraging ecology but it remains unknown whether this shaped variation in the dance. We studied distance dialects-interspecific differences in how waggle duration relates to flight distance-and tested the hypothesis that these evolved to maximize communication precision over the bees' foraging ranges. We performed feeder experiments with , and in India and found that had the steepest dialect, i.e. a rapid increase in waggle duration with increasing feeder distance, had an intermediate, and had the lowest dialect. By decoding dances for natural food sites, we inferred that the foraging range was smallest in , intermediate in and largest in . The inverse correlation between foraging range and dialect was corroborated when comparing six (sub)species across the geographical range of the genus including previously published data. We conclude that dance dialects constitute adaptations resulting from a trade-off between the spatial range and the spatial accuracy of communication.

Alternate JournalProc. Biol. Sci.
PubMed ID32126959