Natures wonders: bees and wasps recognize human faces (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, August 14, 2018, 20:28 (696 days ago) @ David Turell

Current research shows it:

" evidence we published in Frontiers in Psychology shows that insects such as the honeybee (Apis mellifera) and the European wasp (Vespula vulgaris) use visual processing mechanisms that are similar to humans’, which enables reliable face recognition.

"This is despite the tiny size of the insects’ brains. They contain fewer than one million brain cells, compared with the 86,000 million that make up a human brain.


"The honeybee is a very accessible animal for understanding visual processing. Individual bees can be trained to learn complex problems in return for collecting a sweet sugary reward. Recently we developed methods for testing wasps in the same way.

"Our existing research shows that honeybees and wasps can learn to recognise human faces.
Other evidence – from a US research group – shows that paper wasps (Polistes fuscatus) can very reliably learn the faces of other paper wasps, and appear to have evolved specialised brain mechanisms for wasp face processing.


"Both the bees and wasps were then were given four additional separate tests. The results showed that despite these respective insects having no evolutionary reason for processing human faces, their brains learn reliable recognition by creating holistic representations of the complex images. They put features together to recognise a specific human face.

"We now know that insects’ small brains can reliably recognise at least a limited number of faces. This suggests that in humans, the advantage of our big brain may be the very large number of individuals we can remember.

"This new information helps us understand how very sophisticated face processing expertise may have been possible to evolve in humans and other primates."

Comment: See the article for an illustration of how a bee might see a face.

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