Bumblebees are able to perceive amino acids via chemotactile antennal stimulation

Fabian A. Ruedenauer, Sara D. Leonhardt, Klaus Lunau, Johannes Spaethe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations

Abstract

Like all animals, bees need to consume essential amino acids to maintain their body’s protein synthesis. Perception and discrimination of amino acids are, however, still poorly understood in bees (and insects in general). We used chemotactile conditioning of the proboscis extension response (PER) to examine (1) whether Bombus terrestris workers are able to perceive amino acids by means of their antennae and (if so) which ones, (2) whether they are able to differentiate between different amino acids, and (3) whether they are able to differentiate between different concentrations of the same amino acid. We found that workers perceived asparagine, cysteine, hydroxyproline, glutamic acid, lysine, phenylalanine, and serine, but not alanine, leucine, proline, or valine by means of their antennae. Surprisingly, they were unable to differentiate between different (perceivable) amino acids, but they distinguished between different concentrations of lysine. Consequently, bumblebees seem to possess amino acid receptors at the tip of their antennae, which enable a general perception of those solute amino acids that have an additional functional group (besides the common amino and carboxylic groups). They may thus have the ability to assess the overall amino acid content of pollen and nectar prior to ingestion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-331
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Physiology A
Volume205
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Chemoreception
  • Foraging
  • Ionotropic receptor
  • Nutrition
  • Protein

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