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Sunday, May 22, 2005

Yet another claim that honey bees have a language

More "science by media release" yesterday, with the announcement that scientists in England had claimed proof that bees do indeed use dance language to communicate where nectar is. This language theory was developed first by Karl von Frisch and won him a Nobel Prize. However, Adrian Wenner continues to be sceptical of the hypothesis and the new results that supposedly confirm it. I like the picture of the bee with its tiny radar reflector attached in the news report, but I remain to be convinced, especially as several supposed "final proofs" of the reality of the dance language have appeared in recent years. I hope to review the new data soon.

What troubles me about the dance language hypothesis is that it seems to change slightly all the time and the supportive data always seem a bit marginal. Note the following phrase from this report: "Only two of the bees in the first experiment ever actually found the food source, Riley conceded ..."

I have published my own critique of the dance language hypothesis, from an evolutionary point of view, here.

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