Some sketchy ideas for independent projects for BIO/MAR 360 Thomson

These all involve bumblebee colonies and flight cages or small arenas; they can be done indoors throughout the fall; each topic, if well executed, is potentially publishable. Also see additional notes on independent projects in the first takehome assignment you received (the constancy experiment). I've tried to give a single reference for each one, so you can follow up a little bit.

1. Trapline development by individual workers. (Note: We will do something like this as a class exercise--details not final yet. An independent project would have to go well beyond what we do in class.)

What foraging paths are set up by bees confronted with a spatial array of artificial flowers that have continuous secretion of nectar? Could look at aggregate patterns of traffic of all foragers, or concentrate on a number of marked individuals. Factors that can be varied include the spatial pattern of the flowers, the reward rate, colors of flowers. After bees are trained to one configuration, these variables can be switched. Observations can be by eye and stopwatch, voice tape, or video. (Thomson, J. D. 1996. Trapline foraging by bumble bees: I. Persistence of flight-path geometry. Behavioral Ecology 7:158-164. Other refs in first takehome assignment.)

2. Does foraging performance change over the lifetime of a forager? Individually marked bees. Might expect foraging speed to initially increase as bees gain experience, learn to handle flowers, and trim inefficient flight paths, then decline as they age, their wings wear, they may become parasitized, etc. (Don't know of any studies of this. (Speculation on its importance by Thomson et al., 1982. Behavior of bumble bee pollinators of Aralia hispida Vent. (Araliaceae). Oecologia 54:326-336.)

3. What information (if any) about flower sources do returning worker bumble bees transmit to other workers in the hive? Location, richness, scent? Try, for example, getting a bee to feed at one of two feeders in opposite corners. Can vary whether this feeder is rich or poor. As the bee returns home, daub it with a particular scent. Then mark the feeder it did not feed at with the scent. Do the next foragers go to the location where the first bee fed, or to the location that bears the bee's scent, or neither? (The first publication suggesting that bumbles have any information transfer at all was just published in Nature by Anna Dornhaus and Lars Chittka, I believe in the 9 September issue.)

4. Does the rate at which a bee grooms pollen off its body into its corbiculae (pollen baskets, remember?) depend on the amount of pollen that it has recently picked up? This question has implications for how much a plant can increase its male reproductive success by making more pollen. Could answer by quantifying particles groomed and/or by high-speed video of grooming movements. (No direct observations have been made; indirect studies include:

Harder, L. D. 1990. Pollen removal by bumble bees and its implications for pollen dispersal. Ecology 71:1110-1125.

Thomson, J. D. and B. A. Thomson. 1989. Dispersal of Erythronium grandiflorum pollen by bumble bees: implications for gene flow and reproductive success. Evolution 43:657-661.)

5. Nectar feeding by bees is thought to involve complex "sponging and wringing" movements of the mouthparts, as well as pharyngeal suction. How does the use of a bee's tongue (especially lapping rate) change with sugar concentration (=viscosity) of nectar? High-speed video.



Some suggestions for independent projects from J. Yen.
It is not necessary to choose from these. These are ideas that can be used as starting off points for designing projects on a behavior of interest to you. Please do not hesitate to come and talk with us about your ideas.
 Courtship behavior
 1. Hypothesis to test: The courtship behavior of various insects are the same. [This can be done as a group, where each person looks at one insect and then as a group, compares behavior.]
Test: Compare the courtship behavior of various insects (interspecifically, intraspecifically) and document the sequence of events.
Methods: Use high-speed imagery, focussing on a loosely tethered virgin female.
Target organisms:
Bees (see Professor James Thomson’s collection)
Crickets (we’ll buy some)
Drosophila (see Professor Walt Eanes’ collection)
Beetles (see Professor Doug Futuyma’s collection)
Praying mantids (catch some)
Copepods (see Professor Jeannette Yen)
Hall, JC. 1994. The mating of the fly. Sci. 264: 1702-1714.
Moiseff, A, GS Pollack, and RR Hoy. 1978. Steering responses of flying crickets to sound and ultrasound: mate attraction and predator avoidance. PNAS 75: 4052-4056.
Kynaston, SE, P McErlain-Ward, and PJ Mill. 1994. Courtship, mating behavior and sexual cannibalism in the praying mantis, Sphodromantis lineola. Anim.Behav. 47: 739-741.
Yen, J. , MJ Weissburg, and MH Doall. 1998. The fluid physics of signal perception by a mate-tracking copepod. Phil. Trans. Royal Society of London 353:787-804.
Doall, MH, SP Colin, JR Strickler, and J Yen. 1998. Locating a mate in 3D: The case of Temora longicornis. Phil. Trans. Royal Society of London. 353: 681-689.
2. High-speed observations of other behaviors
3. Hypothesis to test: Hermit crabs do not use chemosensation to find their food.
Test: Place food resource in tank with crabs. Record behavioral response to different food types.
Alternative hypotheses:
Hermit crabs use vision to find their food.
Test: Look at response in red light.
Rittschof, D. 1980. Chemical attraction of hermit crabs and other attendants to simulated gastropod predation sites. J. Chem. Ecol. 6: 103-118.
Brooks, WR. 1991. Chemical recongition by hermit crabs of their symbiotic anemones and a predatory octopus. Hydrobiologia 216/217: 291-295.
4. Hypothesis to test: Copepods do not detect signals of different modalities (types: light, odor, fluid flow).
Test: Examine copepod responses to changes in light intensity or wavelength, to the presence of food or mate odors, to the intensity of fluid flow.
5. Hypothesis to test: A predatory copepod spends more time hovering in the presence of prey and more time searching in the absence of prey.
Test: Construct ethogram of a predatory copepod:
6. Hypothesis to test: High speed behavior releases copepod from viscous bond.
7. Compare behavior of plankton from different aquatic communities: Roth Pond, Stony Brook Harbor, pitcher plants, ephemeral ponds.