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Neuroscience

Bee exploration mechanism

Honeybees orient using similar molecular pathways to many vertebrates.

Gene Robinson and Claudia Lutz at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign identified a protein in honeybees (Apis mellifera) similar to the transcription factor Egr1, which is expressed in the brains of vertebrates such as rodents during the exploration of new environments.

Egr was upregulated only in regions of the bee brain called mushroom bodies — which integrate sensory input and process memories — and only as the bees learned to orient in unfamiliar surroundings. This was true of both young bees that had previously never left the hive and experienced foragers placed in a new environment. The results demonstrate the deep evolutionary conservation of Egr-related molecular pathways in experience-dependent learning, say the authors.

J. Exp. Biol. 216, 2031–2038 (2013)

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Bee exploration mechanism. Nature 497, 538 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1038/497538b

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