Transfer from continuous to discrete quantities in honeybees

Published: 29 September 2023| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/zyjjngtdwv.1
Maria Bortot, Giorgio Vallortigara


Honeybees can estimate quantities having different dimensions: continuous and uncountable such as the relative size of visual objects in an array, or discrete and countable such as the number of objects of the array. Honeybees can transfer quantity discrimination (i.e., choosing the larger/smaller stimulus) from number to size. Here we investigated whether honeybees could also generalize from the size (continuous) to the number (discrete) dimension. We trained free-flying foragers to discriminate between large and small size elements. At test, bees were presented with a comparison between larger and smaller numerosities controlled for different continuous variables co-varying with numerosity such as total area, total perimeter, convex hull, and element size. Results showed that bees generalized from the size to the numerical dimension of the stimuli. This cross-dimensional transfer supports the idea of a universal mechanism for the encoding of abstract magnitudes in invertebrate species comparable to that of vertebrate species.



Universita degli Studi di Trento Centro Interdipartimentale Mente/Cervello


Animal Behavior, Animal Cognition, Insect


HORIZON EUROPE European Research Council