Neurogenomic and Neurochemical Dissection of Honey Bee Dance Communication

Andrew B. Barron, Axel Brockmann, Moushumi Sen Sarma, Gene E. Robinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Honey bee dance communication is a classic form of animal behavior, with over 70 years of intense study. In this chapter, we first discuss conceptually how it is possible to dissect dance communication into simpler behavioral modules for neurogenomics analysis, based on information from prior ethological studies of dance behavior and a rapidly advancing functional analysis of the insect brain. We then review recent studies that have used this conceptual approach and new genomic tools to begin to explore neurogenomic and neurochemical aspects of dance communication, highlighting the following findings. Comparative transcriptomic studies of specific brain regions across Apis species that differ in dance behavior have implicated genes involved in the geotactic and odometric elements of dance, and genes involved in learning and memory systems and the circadian clock as important modulators of dance output. This research also has identified distinct patterns of gene expression in different brain regions that provide additional hints about the regulation of dance behavior. Pharmacological studies with octopamine and related compounds have demonstrated the role of the reward system in modulating the likelihood that a bee will dance upon returning from a foraging trip. The results of these early studies provide a foundation for a more comprehensive molecular dissection of dance behavior and suggest that the mechanisms regulating dance communication involve evolutionary reuse and adaptation of neuromolecular systems that control elements of solitary behavior.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHoneybee Neurobiology and Behavior
EditorsC. Giovanni Galizia, Dorothea Eisenhardt, Martin Giurfa
ISBN (Electronic)978-94-007-2099-2
ISBN (Print)978-94-007-2098-5
StatePublished - Sep 20 2011


  • Thoracic Ganglion
  • Proboscis Extension Reflex
  • Dance Movement
  • Central Nervous System Region
  • Behavioral Module


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