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Data from: A pollen fatty acid enhances learning and survival in bumblebees


Muth, Felicity; Breslow, Phillip R.; Masek, Pavel; Leonard, Anne S. (2018), Data from: A pollen fatty acid enhances learning and survival in bumblebees, Dryad, Dataset,


Learning associations between food-related stimuli and nutrients allows foragers to collect resources efficiently. In turn, the nutrients foragers consume can themselves affect learning performance, through innate preferences for pre-ingestive stimuli, as well as post-ingestive reinforcement. Bees are insect models of learning and memory, yet the vast majority of this research concerns nectar (carbohydrate) rather than pollen (protein/lipid) rewards, despite the fact that many bees collect both simultaneously. We asked how one component of pollen surface chemistry, a free fatty acid (oleic acid), affected bees’ performance in a nectar-learning task. We found that ingestion of oleic acid enhanced visual learning, likely through positive post-ingestive reinforcement. This was supported by our finding that although bees did not prefer to consume the oleic acid solution, its ingestion both decreased motor activity and increased survival. These results are a step towards understanding how nutritionally complex floral rewards may affect cognitive processes that underlie pollination mutualisms.

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National Science Foundation, Award: IOS-1257762