Dynamic range compression in the honey bee auditory system toward waggle dance sounds

Seiya Tsujiuchi*, Elena Sivan-Loukianova, Daniel F. Eberl, Yasuo Kitagawa, Tatsuhiko Kadowaki

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Honey bee foragers use a "waggle dance" to inform nestmates about direction and distance to locations of attractive food. The sound and air flows generated by dancer's wing and abdominal vibrations have been implicated as important cues, but the decoding mechanisms for these dance messages are poorly understood. To understand the neural mechanisms of honey bee dance communication, we analyzed the anatomy of antenna and Johnston's organ (JO) in the pedicel of the antenna, as well as the mechanical and neural response characteristics of antenna and JO to acoustic stimuli, respectively. The honey bee JO consists of about 300-320 scolopidia connected with about 48 cuticular "knobs" around the circumference of the pedicel. Each scolopidium contains bipolar sensory neurons with both type I and II cilia. The mechanical sensitivities of the antennal flagellum are specifically high in response to low but not high intensity stimuli of 265-350 Hz frequencies. The structural characteristics of antenna but not JO neurons seem to be responsible for the non-linear responses of the flagellum in contrast to mosquito and fruit fly. The honey bee flagellum is a sensitive movement detector responding to 20 nm tip displacement, which is comparable to female mosquito. Furthermore, the JO neurons have the ability to preserve both frequency and temporal information of acoustic stimuli including the "waggle dance" sound. Intriguingly, the response of JO neurons was found to be age-dependent, demonstrating that the dance communication is only possible between aged foragers. These results suggest that the matured honey bee antennae and JO neurons are best tuned to detect 250-300 Hz sound generated during "waggle dance" from the distance in a dark hive, and that sufficient responses of the JO neurons are obtained by reducing the mechanical sensitivity of the flagellum in a near-field of dancer. This nonlinear effect brings about dynamic range compression in the honey bee auditory system.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere234
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


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