Brain and behavioural lateralization at the population level has been recently hypothesized to have evolved under social selective pressures as a strategy to optimize coordination among asymmetrical individuals. Evidence for this hypothesis have been collected in Hymenoptera: eusocial honey bees showed olfactory lateralization at the population level, whereas solitary mason bees only showed individual-level olfactory lateralization. Here we investigated lateralization of odour detection and learning in the bumble bee, Bombus terrestris L., an annual eusocial species of Hymenoptera. By training bumble bees on the proboscis extension reflex paradigm with only one antenna in use, we provided the very first evidence of asymmetrical performance favouring the right antenna in responding to learned odours in this species. Electroantennographic responses did not reveal significant antennal asymmetries in odour detection, whereas morphological counting of olfactory sensilla showed a predominance in the number of olfactory sensilla trichodea type A in the right antenna. The occurrence of a population level asymmetry in olfactory learning of bumble bee provides new information on the relationship between social behaviour and the evolution of population-level asymmetries in animals.
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