Experience-dependent plasticity in the mushroom bodies of the solitary bee Osmia lignaria (Megachilidae)



All members of the solitary bee species Osmia lignaria (the orchard bee) forage upon emergence from their natal nest cell. Conversely, in the honey bee, days-to-weeks of socially regulated behavioral development precede the onset of foraging. The social honey bee's behavioral transition to foraging is accompanied by neuroanatomical changes in the mushroom bodies, a region of the insect brain implicated in learning. If these changes were general adaptations to foraging, they should also occur in the solitary orchard bee. Using unbiased stereological methods, we estimated the volume of the major compartments of the mushroom bodies, the neuropil and Kenyon cell body region, in adult orchard bees. We compared the mushroom bodies of recently emerged bees with mature bees that had extensive foraging experience. To separate effects of general maturation from field foraging, some orchard bees were confined to a cage indoors. The mushroom body neuropil of experienced field foragers was significantly greater than that of both recently emerged and mature caged orchard bees, suggesting that, like the honey bee, this increase is driven by outdoor foraging experience. Unlike the honey bee, where increases in the ratio of neuropil to Kenyon cell region occur in the worker after emerging from the hive cell, the orchard bee emerged from the natal nest cell with a ratio that did not change with maturation and was comparable to honey-bee foragers. These results suggest that a common developmental endpoint may be reached via different development paths in social and solitary species of foraging bees. © 2007 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2008