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Title: Social information use and social learning in the Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris)
Author: Leadbeater, Ellouise Anderson
ISNI:       0000 0004 2670 1905
Awarding Body: Queen Mary, University of London
Current Institution: Queen Mary, University of London
Date of Award: 2008
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The "explosion of interest" in animal social learning which has taken place over the last two decades has rarely touched upon invertebrate models. Yet, often social learning does not reflect complex cognitive processing, but instead derives from simple learning processes which also occur when animals learn asocially, shaped or directed by social behaviour mechanisms. In this thesis, I investigate how information provided inadvertently by conspecifics can influence foraging decisions in an animal with a small brain, and yet highly developed learning abilities, the bumblebee. In the first two chapters, I show that foraging bumblebees, when visiting unfamiliar flower species, prefer to probe those individual inflorescences where others are foraging. By comparing individual learning curves when foraging in the absence or presence of experienced conspecifics, I find that this can lead to faster learning about the relative rewards that different flower species offer. I investigate the proximate mechanistic causes of joining behaviour in Chapter four, showing that social information use is a flexible trait which can be modified by learning. In Chapter five, I explore the influence of social cues in learning about "nectar robbing" - a process by which bees remove nectar from 1 flowers without pollination, by biting through the corolla. Finally, in Chapter six, I extend the context of the thesis to address the whether bees might use social information about danger. Taken together, my findings provide a model of how social learning can arise through a combination of simple social behaviour and individual learning, suggesting that social influences on learning in invertebrates may be more common than the current literature would suggest.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available