Bumblebees' Self-Image Gets Them through Tight Spots

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Bumblebees' Self-Image Gets Them through Tight Spots

Quote:As the bees made their way from flower to flower, they skillfully flew between obstacles, dodging branches and shrubs. These actions seemed to require a complex awareness of one's physical body in relation to one’s environment that had only been proven to exist in animals with large brains. 

To examine this, a team of researchers at Australia’s University of New South Wales, Canberra, led by Ravi, set up a hive of bumblebees inside their laboratory. The bees could come and go via a tunnel, which could be partially blocked with an adjustable barrier. Ravi and his team made the gap progressively smaller over time, and observed how the bees’ reactions changed.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found the bumblebees measured the gap by flying side-to-side to scan it. When the gap became narrower than their wingspan, the bees took a longer time to scan the opening. And then they did something remarkable: they turned their bodies to fly through sideways. Some of the bees’ bodies did bump the sides of the narrowed opening—but every one of the 400 recorded flights through the gap was a success.
'Historically, we may regard materialism as a system of dogma set up to combat orthodox dogma...Accordingly we find that, as ancient orthodoxies disintegrate, materialism more and more gives way to scepticism.'

- Bertrand Russell

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