Posted by: Alexandre Borovik | May 7, 2018

Q: What are examples of polar coordinates in nature? A: Bees’ waggle dance

My answer in Quora to What are examples of polar coordinates in nature?

I quote Bee learning and communication – Wikipedia about bees communicating to fellow bees direction and distance to the food source, that is, polar coordinates of the food source in relation to the hive. It is hard to make an example closer to nature than that one.

It has long been known that successfully foraging Western honey bees perform a waggle dance upon their return to the hive. The laden forager dances on the comb in a circular pattern, occasionally crossing the circle in a zig-zag or waggle pattern. Aristotle described this behaviour in his Historia Animalium[7] This waggle pattern of movement was thought to attract the attention of other bees. In 1947, [8] Karl von Frisch correlated the runs and turns of the dance to the distance and direction of the food source from the hive. He reported that the orientation of the dance is correlated with the relative position of the sun to the food source, and the length of the waggle portion of the run is correlated to the distance of the food from the hive. Von Frisch also reported that the more vigorous the display is, the better the food. Von Frish published these and many other observations in his 1967 book The Dance Language and Orientation of Bees [9] and in 1973 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his discoveries.


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