Social bees have bigger brain region for learning, memory

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Washington, Mar 24 (ANI): Social bee queens- like those in the tropical sweat bee species, Megalopta genalis in Panama-have bigger brain region responsible for learning and memory than in solitary queens, according to scientists.

The study by researchers Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is the first comparison of the brain sizes of social and non-social individuals of the same species.

"The idea is that to maintain power and control in groups you need more information, so the bigger the group, the bigger individuals' brains need to beThis is called the 'social brain hypothesis' also known as the 'Machiavelli hypothesis,'" said William Wcislo, Smithsonian staff scientist.

Previous studies compared brain sizes among social and non-social animals. However, different animal species may be different in so many ways that it's hard to make a direct connection between brain size and sociality.

The study focuses on a single species in which some individuals are social and others are not.

Megalopta bees exhibit a very primitive form of social behaviour.

Either a bee lives as a solitary queen, going out from her nest to forage for her own food or she can be a social queen-a stay-at-home mom.

In the latter case, one of her daughters goes out to forage for her, so she rarely leaves the nest.

Her daughter's ovaries don't develop, and she never leaves her mother to become a queen.

"It was surprising to us that even though the social queens don't have bigger brains overall, the fact that the area associated with learning and memory-the mushroom body-was more developed in the social queens than in the solitary bees suggesting that social interactions are cognitively challenging, as predicted by the social brain hypothesis. It's interesting to see that a characteristic like brain development changes so immediately, even with this simple mother-daughter division of labour," said Adam Smith.

The results are published online in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (ANI)

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