© 2014 Mertes, Dittmar, Egelhaaf and Boeddeker. Bees use visual memories to find the spatial location of previously learnt food sites. Characteristic learning flights help acquiring these memories at newly discovered foraging locations where landmarks—salient objects in the vicinity of the goal location—can play an important role in guiding the animal's homing behavior. Although behavioral experiments have shown that bees can use a variety of visual cues to distinguish objects as landmarks, the question of how landmark features are encoded by the visual system is still open. Recently, it could be shown that motion cues are sufficient to allow bees localizing their goal using landmarks that can hardly be discriminated from the background texture. Here, we tested the hypothesis that motion sensitive neurons in the bee's visual pathway provide information about such landmarks during a learning flight and might, thus, play a role for goal localization. We tracked learning flights of free-flying bumblebees (Bombus terrestris) in an arena with distinct visual landmarks, reconstructed the visual input during these flights, and replayed ego-perspective movies to tethered bumblebees while recording the activity of direction-selective wide-field neurons in their optic lobe. By comparing neuronal responses during a typical learning flight and targeted modifications of landmark properties in this movie we demonstrate that these objects are indeed represented in the bee's visual motion pathway. We find that object-induced responses vary little with object texture, which is in agreement with behavioral evidence. These neurons thus convey information about landmark properties that are useful for view-based homing.
Mertes, M., Dittmar, L., Egelhaaf, M., & Boeddeker, N. (2014). Visual motion-sensitive neurons in the bumblebee brain convey information about landmarks during a navigational task. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnbeh.2014.00335