The bipolar fuscatusCompared unfavorably to bees, it turns out to be actually smarter than we thought, according to a study by scientists. American researchers at the American University of Michiganpublished by the British Royal Society.
In fact, according to the work done by this team, the wasp is able to make the difference between two things. And this is not trivial, analyzes Adrien Berard, lecturer in ecology at the University of Paris: “This experiment shows that wasps can use abstract concepts, not just an association between a physical object, state, and state (eg “a red flower equals a reward”), but more abstract concepts: are things the same or different?“
In concrete terms, American researcher Elizabeth Tibbets and her team trained wasps to choose between pairs of symbols: either the same symbol twice or two different symbols. Then, Adrien Perrard describes, “They put her in a maze where the wasps had to choose between similar or different symbols. But in the maze, these were symbols they had never seen before.“
Therefore, insects cannot resort to their memory alone to find the solution. “So they can’t associate “this color is the reward” or “this smell is the reward”defines the French academic. The wasps had to appeal to the fact that the two colors or smells were the same in order to be able to choose.“
This discovery may seem insignificant, but it is a huge step for science. “These experiments allow us to better understand the functioning and capabilities of the insect brain, Adrian Berard notes, But also to relate it to the functions of other types of brains, and thus to understand the reflex mechanism, the perception of the environment, and thus its use.“
So the researchers’ next challenge will be to understand how small brains like those of wasps are able to perform computer-worthy operations.