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Monday, November 17, 2008

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More special pleading on the honeybee dance language

From page 17 of the New Scientist magazine of 4 October 2008:

" When honeybees dance to point their hivemates towards nectar-rich flowers, they waggle in a slightly different direction each time. It is sometimes claimed that this variability benefits the hive by helping bees locate new resources ... etc. etc. "

This doubtful theory is replaced by another one that requires the honeybees to "keep a mental log of the directions indicated in the dance" and take the mean. As one of the authors remarks, "I find it remarkable that, with a relatively simple brain, they can do something so mathematically complex". So do I!

The honeybee dance language hypothesis has had many ad hoc corrections applied to it over the years, and this is simply the latest. The whole thing is getting beyond a joke. There are other explanations for the apparent dance language, as I argued several years ago,

Here.

My proposal, that the so-called dance language is simply idiothetic behaviour, is also discussed at the following Wikipedia article on honeybee behaviour.

Julian

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