A wasp never forgets a face

A wasp never forgets a face

Primates have a face recognition system that enables them to distinguish between individuals, and now, according to a recent study, it seems some wasps do too.

But the new study has also found wasps are likely to have evolved their ability quite separately and it may work in a different way.

Wasp nest removalMichael Sheehan, a PhD student at the University of Michigan in the USA, and his supervisor, Dr Elizabeth Tibbetts, report their discovery in the latest issue of Science.

“We know that the same area of the brain in other primates does the same thing and it’s also the same brain area in sheep”, Mr Sheehan said.

“But as far as I’m aware, our work is the first example of face recognition in an invertebrate – certainly in an insect.”

Mr Sheehan studied two closely related species of paper wasps that live in Michigan and found one could recognise faces while the other could not.

“The two species are essentially the same in all aspects – they even build nests next to each other,” he said.

“They only differ in the number of queens in a nest.”

The species that could recognise faces, Polistes fuscatus, founds nests containing multiple queens – typically three or four queens but sometimes as many as eight.

The other species, Polistes metricus, has nests with only one queen.

Read full article (courtesy of abc news)