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Responsiveness to inhibitory signals changes as a function of colony size in honeybees (Apis mellifera).


Biological collectives, like honeybee colonies, can make intelligent decisions and robustly adapt to changing conditions via intricate systems of excitatory and inhibitory signals. In this study, we explore the role of behavioural plasticity and its relationship to network size by manipulating honeybee colony exposure to an artificial inhibitory signal. As predicted, inhibition was strongest in large colonies and weakest in small colonies. This is ecologically relevant for honeybees, for which reduced inhibitory effects may increase robustness in small colonies that must maintain a minimum level of foraging and food stores. We discuss evidence for size-dependent plasticity in other types of biological networks.

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