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Research projects of Prof. Dr. Joachim Erber

We are analysing the neural mechanisms underlying division of labor in the honey bee. The work is done in different research projects, including the graduate school "Functional Insect Science" and a research project with the Research Centre Jülich.

How do bees with different foraging behavior differ in their sensory thresholds?

Our experiments in the last years have shown that pollen foragers differ in their sensory thresholds from nectar foragers in the gustatory, olfactory and visual modality. Similar experiments of various other research groups support the hypothesis that division of labor in insects is correlated with sensory sensitivities.

What are the correlates for differences in foraging behavior and sensory thresholds at the level of cellular signalling cascades?

Our experiments with a number of neuromodulators have demonstrated that biogenic amines and molecules which are part of postsynaptic signalling cascades can control sensory sensitivity. Presently we are analysing the functions of different adenylate cyclases.


What are the effects of sensory thresholds on learning behavior?

Sensory thresholds have clear effects on tactile and olfactory learning under laboratory conditions. Bees with high sensitivity for sucrose show better acquisition and better memory than insensitive animals. As pollen foragers are more sensitive than nectar foragers, these two groups of bees also differ in their learning behavior.

What does the behavior under laboratory conditions tell us about behavior in the field?

These questions are presently being analysed in a series of experiments which deal with the relations between sensory thresholds in the laboratory and the field and the learning behavior in the field and the lab.

What are the consequences of sensory thresholds for the division of labor during foraging under natural conditions?

We are developing a coherent model describing these relations which is based on our experimental findings.

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