WASHINGTON, Sept. 15 (UPI) — Israeli scientists say honeybees removed from their usual hive roles quickly and drastically changed their biological rhythms, behaviors and internal clocks.
Researchers at The Hebrew University say the findings indicate social environment has a significant effect on the physiology and behavior of animals, a Society for Neuroscience release reported Tuesday.
In people, disturbances to the biological clock are known to cause problems for shift workers and new parents and for contributing to mood disorders, scientists say.
Circadian rhythm, the body’s “internal clock,” regulates daily functions, but how that clock is affected by — and affects — social interactions with other animals is unknown, they say.
The researchers studied honeybee “nurses,” those bees who spend all their time caring for larvae in a continuous activity different from other bees whose activity levels rise and fall throughout the day.
The scientists found that when these “nurse” bees were separated from the larvae, their cellular rhythms and behavior completely changed, matching a more typical circadian cycle of other bees.
This is evidence of the tightly regulated interactions between genes and behavior in a bee colony, a scientist not affiliated with the study says.
“The presence or absence of larvae switched the genes ‘on’ or ‘off,’ which guaranteed the adaptive behavior of the bees,” Jurgen Tautz, of the University of Wurzburg in Germany said.
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