Dancing hairs alert bees to floral electric fields

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Dancing hairs alert bees to floral electric fields

Post by Cr6 on Mon May 30, 2016 10:28 pm

Dancing hairs alert bees to floral electric fields

May 30, 2016

(More at link...)

http://phys.org/news/2016-05-hairs-bees-floral-electric-fields.html

Tiny, vibrating hairs may explain how bumblebees sense and interpret the signals transmitted by flowers, according to a study by researchers at the University of Bristol.

Although it's known that flowers communicate with pollinators by sending out electric signals, just how bees detects these fields has been a mystery - until now.

Using a laser to measure vibrations, researchers found that both the bees' antenna and hairs deflect in response to an electric field, but the hairs move more rapidly and with overall greater displacements.

Researchers then looked at the bees' nervous system, finding that only the hairs alerted the bee's nervous system to this signal.

The findings, published in the international journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) today, suggest that electroreception in insects may be widespread.

Electroreception may arise from the bees' hairs being lightweight and stiff, properties that confer a rigid, lever-like motion similar to acoustically sensitive spider hairs and mosquito antennae.

Dr Gregory Sutton, a Research Fellow in the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, led the research. He said: "We were excited to discover that bees' tiny hairs dance in response to electric fields, like when humans hold a balloon to their hair. A lot of insects have similar body hairs, which leads to the possibility that many members the insect world may be equally sensitive to small electric fields."

Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Provided by: University of Bristol

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