Fred C. Dyer


Ph.D., Princeton University, 1984

403 Natural Science Building
Office Telephone: 517-432-9818
Research website

Animal Behavior: Vision, Navigation and Decision-Making

I study the mechanisms and evolution of behavior in animals, focusing especially on visually guided behavior in the context of way-finding, foraging, and social interaction. Most work in the lab deals with honey bees (genus Apis). Honey bees have fascinating behavior, including the famous dance language by which foragers communicate the location of food relative to the sun. They are also unusually amendable to experimental analyses of sensory and integrative mechanisms common to many animals. Comparisons among Apis species, including three that live in tropical Asia, add an evolutionary perspective (and an opportunity to travel). I am currently interested in three main areas. The first concerns information processing underlying the orientation of flights and dances, especially concerning the use of landmarks and the sun. Some experiments concern interspecific differences which have suggested new insights into the evolution of the dance. My second main interest is in the design of the bee’s eye. Using a variety of techniques, I hope to relate interspecific differences in visual behavior (such as the unique ability of one species to fly during both day and night) to evolved differences in the structure and physiology of their eyes. A third interest deals with sequential decision-making problems in honey bees and other species. These are problems in which the decision-maker must draw upon often ambiguous sensory information to make a decision that may not have consequences until a long sequence of related decisions have been completed. Such problems are central to many areas of animal behavior, and are also an area of intensive research in human cognition and robotics.

Representative Publications

Wharton, K, F.C. Dyer, Z.-Y. Huang, and T. Getty, 2007. The honeybee queen influences the regulation of colony drone production. Behavioral Ecology [published online Sept 2007]

Dyer, F. C. 2002. The biology of the dance language. Annual Review of Entomology 47: 917-949.

Dyer, F. C. 2002. Motivation and spatial cognition in honey bees. Naturwissenschaften 89: 262-264.

Wei, C.A., S. L. Rafalko, and F.C. Dyer, 2002. Deciding to learn: modulation of learning flights in honeybees, Apis mellifera. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 188: 725-737.

Dyer, F.C. 1996. Spatial memory and navigation by honeybees on the scale of the foraging range. Journal of Experimental Biology 199: 147-154.

Dyer, F.C. and J.A. Dickinson, 1994. Development of sun compensation by honeybees: How partially experienced bees estimate the sun’s course. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 91:4471-4474.

Dyer, F.C. 1991. Comparative studies of dance communication: analysis of phylogeny and function. In: Diversity in the genus. D.R. Smith, ed., pp.177-197. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.