From the Arizona Daily Star, January 23, 2008
Have you ever known someone who was “good at faces”? The kind of guy who can instantly recognize someone he barely met a year ago?
In the insect world, some paper wasp species are a lot like that guy, and a new UA study published this month in the journal Brain, Behavior and Evolution, says that the brains of wasps that can discriminate between individuals work differently from those that cannot.
The goal of the study was “to find something in their brains that was different,” said Wulfila Gronenberg, associate professor of neurobiology and ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Arizona, and one of the authors of the paper. He said that much as bats use sound to navigate and have an enlarged area of the brain for processing sound, and birds have an enlarged memory portion of their brains to find the seeds they hide, wasps that can tell each other apart might have different kind of brains from those that can’t. The research has implications for how human brains function, because in some basic ways insect brains are very similar to those of more complex animals, including humans.