, Volume 91, Issue 8, pp 374–377 | Cite as

Symmetry is in the eye of the ‘beeholder’: innate preference for bilateral symmetry in flower-naïve bumblebees

  • Ivana Rodríguez
  • Andreas Gumbert
  • Natalie Hempel de Ibarra
  • Jan Kunze
  • Martin GiurfaEmail author
Short Communication


Bilateral symmetry has been considered as an indicator of phenotypic and genotypic quality supporting innate preferences for highly symmetric partners. Insect pollinators preferentially visit flowers of a particular symmetry type, thus leading to the suggestion that they have innate preferences for symmetrical flowers or flower models. Here we show that flower-naïve bumblebees (Bombus terrestris), with no experience of symmetric or asymmetric patterns and whose visual experience was accurately controlled, have innate preferences for bilateral symmetry. The presence of color cues did not influence the bees’ original preference. Our results thus show that bilateral symmetry is innately preferred in the context of food search, a fact that supports the selection of symmetry in flower displays. Furthermore, such innate preferences indicate that the nervous system of naïve animals may be primed to respond to relevant sensory cues in the environment.


Visual Experience Training Stimulus Bilateral Symmetry Asymmetric Pattern Innate Preference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Special thanks are due to D. Osorio for the stimulus-generating program. We also thank A. Cocucci, N. Deisig, R. Menzel, and S. Stach for useful comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the German and the French Research Councils and the University Paul-Sabatier to M. Giurfa. I. Rodríguez was supported by a short fellowship from the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivana Rodríguez
    • 1
    • 2
  • Andreas Gumbert
    • 1
  • Natalie Hempel de Ibarra
    • 1
  • Jan Kunze
    • 1
  • Martin Giurfa
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Neurobiology, Department of Biology/Chemistry/PharmacyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Facultad de Cs. Exactas, Físicas y NaturalesInstituto Multidisciplinario de Biología VegetalCórdobaArgentina
  3. 3.Research Centre for Animal CognitionCNRS—Université Paul-SabatierToulouse cedex 4France

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