NCBI ROFL: Think all wasps look alike? Then clearly you're not a wasp.

By ncbi rofl | December 5, 2011 7:46 pm

Specialized face learning is associated with individual recognition in paper wasps.

“We demonstrate that the evolution of facial recognition in wasps is associated with specialized face-learning abilities. Polistes fuscatus can differentiate among normal wasp face images more rapidly and accurately than nonface images or manipulated faces. A close relative lacking facial recognition, Polistes metricus, however, lacks specialized face learning. Similar specializations for face learning are found in primates and other mammals, although P. fuscatus represents an independent evolution of specialization. Convergence toward face specialization in distant taxa as well as divergence among closely related taxa with different recognition behavior suggests that specialized cognition is surprisingly labile and may be adaptively shaped by species-specific selective pressures such as face recognition.”

Bonus Figure:

“Images used for training wasps. Wasps were trained to discriminate between pairs of images. Pairs are shown in the same row except for P. metricus face images. For P. metricus face images, the unmanipulated faces in the top row were paired with the manipulated images of the other face (for example, top left paired with middle left and bottom left).”

Photo: Flickr/quinet

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CATEGORIZED UNDER: fun with animals, NCBI ROFL
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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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