Scientific American By Elizabeth A. Tibbets and Adrian G. Dyer 12/4/13
Insects Recognize Faces Using Processing Mechanism Similar to That of Humans [Preview]
Conventional wisdom holds that the ability to recognize faces requires a complex mammalian brain. But some insects are surprisingly adept at this task
The wasps and bees buzzing around your garden might seem like simple-minded creatures. They build nests, forage for nectar, raise their young and then die, their lives typically playing out over the course of a single year or less. Some of these species rival humans and other primates in at least one intellectual skill, however: they recognize the individual faces of their peers.
More specifically, members of a species of paper wasp can perceive and memorize one another's unique facial markings and are able to use this information to distinguish individuals during subsequent interactions, much as humans navigate their social environment by learning and remembering the faces of family, friends and colleagues. Further, even certain insects that do not normally memorize faces in the wild can be trained to do so—and can at times even learn to tell human faces apart.
This article was originally published with the title Good with Faces.
Scientific America By Kate Wong 12/4/13
Honeybees Can Recognize Individual Human Faces
The ability to tell individual faces apart was long thought to be exclusive to large-brained mammals. But in recent years a number of studies have shown that, in fact, some wasps can facially recognize one another. And honeybees can learn human faces, too. In their article in the December issue ofScientific American, biologists Elizabeth Tibbetts of the University of Michigan and Adrian Dyer of RMIT University in Melbourne describe these findings and what they reveal about the neural requirements for seemingly complex cognitive tasks.
The image depicts how a honeybee sees the features of a human face. Researchers created the image with a mechano-optical array of 5,000 individual imaging tubes, each of which represents one of the facets of an insect’s compound eye.