Tuesday November 10
Nectar Guides but Pollen Doesn’t: Learning and Uncertainty in Plant-Pollinator Interactions
MCZ 101, 26 Oxford Street, Harvard University
Humans perceive the world as uncertain in key respects, and think often about how to cope with uncertainty. Insects too must cope with uncertainty, for example, in the availability and value of their resources. In this talk, I treat plants and their insect pollinators as signalers and receivers respectively in a communication system that is part mutualism and part antagonism. I will argue that the floral resource can be uncertain from a pollinator’s perspective in two key ways: first, the signals by which flowers are identified and located may be uncertain (= low signal detectability) and, second, the consequences of attending to the signal may be uncertain (= low information reliability). Drawing from our work on bumble bees, examples of each challenge for pollinators and the means by which challenges are met will be presented. Ways in which flowers appear to mitigate uncertainty will be contrasted with ways in which they appear to maintain it and benefit from it, even at the expense of the pollinator. The talk will touch on a broad range of topics, including signal detection theory, multimodal communication, learning (including social learning), concealed floral rewards, nectar guides and nectar robbing, and floral sonication behavior.
The talk is free and open to the public. The meeting is readily accessible via public transportation. Parking is available in the Oxford Street Garage with advance arrangement, as described here, or (usually but not always) at spaces on nearby streets. Everyone is also welcome to join us for dinner before the talk (beginning at 5:45 PM) at the West Side Lounge, 1680 Massachussetts Avenue, Cambridge.
CEC meetings are held the second Tuesday of the month from October through May. The evening schedule typically includes an informal dinner (5:45 to 7:15 PM) followed by our formal meeting (7:30 – 9:00 PM). The latter begins with club business and is followed by a 50 minute entomology related presentation. Membership is open to amateur and professional entomologists.