ScienceShot: Wasps Spot Familiar Faces

Wasps can recognize faces much like many apes do, researchers report online today in Science. The team taught paper wasps (Polistes fuscatus), whose faces sport distinctive brown and creamy markings, to associate certain wasp mugshots with safety and others with danger in an electrified maze. The buzzers flew to safety quicker and with fewer errors when a kind face led the way, the team found. Closely related, but much less social, wasp species couldn't achieve that same feat of recognition. Still, the paper wasps weren't flawless. When the team plucked the antennae off the heads of photographed bugs, the ability of the wasps to distinguish one insect from another dropped—as if the critters had been missing a nose.

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