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Lihoreau M.,Biological and Experimental Psychology Group | Lihoreau M.,University of Sydney | Chittka L.,Biological and Experimental Psychology Group | Le Comber S.C.,Queen Mary, University of London | Raine N.E.,Biological and Experimental Psychology Group
Biology Letters | Year: 2012

Animals collecting patchily distributed resources are faced withcomplexmulti-location routing problems. Rather than comparing all possible routes, they often find reasonably short solutions by simply moving to the nearest unvisited resources when foraging.Here, we report the travel optimization performance of bumble-bees (Bombus terrestris) foraging in a flight cage containing six artificial flowers arranged such that movements between nearest-neighbour locations would lead to a long suboptimal route. After extensive training (80 foraging bouts and at least 640 flower visits), bees reduced their flight distances and prioritized shortest possible routes,whilealmost never following nearest-neighbour solutions. We discuss possible strategies used during the establishment of stable multi-location routes (or traplines), and how these could allow bees and other animals to solve complex routing problems through experience, without necessarily requiring a sophisticated cognitive representation of space. © 2011 The Royal Society.

Chittka L.,Biological and Experimental Psychology Group | Rossiter S.J.,Biological and Experimental Psychology Group | Skorupski P.,Biological and Experimental Psychology Group | Fernando C.,Queen Mary, University of London
Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Year: 2012

To understand how complex, or 'advanced' various forms of cognition are, and to compare them between species for evolutionary studies, we need to understand the diversity of neural-computational mechanisms that may be involved, and to identify the genetic changes that are necessary to mediate changes in cognitive functions. The same overt cognitive capacity might be mediated by entirely different neural circuitries in different species, with a many-to-one mapping between behavioural routines, computations and their neural implementations. Comparative behavioural research needs to be complemented with a bottom-up approach in which neurobiological and molecular-genetic analyses allow pinpointing of underlying neural and genetic bases that constrain cognitive variation. Often, only very minor differences in circuitry might be needed to generate major shifts in cognitive functions and the possibility that cognitive traits arise by convergence or parallel evolution needs to be taken seriously. Hereditary variation in cognitive traits between individuals of a species might be extensive, and selection experiments on cognitive traits might be a useful avenue to explore how rapidly changes in cognitive abilities occur in the face of pertinent selection pressures. © 2012 The Royal Society.

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