The paper wasp includes an abstract concept

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La guecirc; pe on paper includes an abstract concept

A Polistes fuscatus wasp< /p>

The paper wasp has just entered the very closed circle of animals deemed capable of forming an abstract concept, such as that of the resemblance or difference between two things.

Most species know how to distinguish one essential thing from another, like good fruit from bad or the cry of a conspecific from that of a predator. Very few are able to form an abstract concept like the same/not the same and apply it to different situations.

Primates aside, a small number of species possess such a gift, including corvids, pigeons, parrots, dolphins and ducklings. In invertebrates, it has only been listed in the European bee.

We must now add Polistes fuscatus, the wasp to paper, according to the study published in the British Proceedings B of the Royal Society.

This social insect is renowned for its ability to to distinguish without failing the faces of his congeners. A team of American neurobiologists from the University of Michigan explored its ability to do better.

They first taught the wasps to associate a pair of images or smells, similar or different, with a harmless but unpleasant electric current, and the opposite pair with the absence of discharge.

Each wasp ended up in a cube whose walls bore, for example, a pair of identical colors. It remained there for two minutes, undergoing an electric current transmitted through the ground, then after a one-minute pause, it was placed in another cube, without current, where there was a pair of different colors on it. each other.

The pairs of stimuli, colors, wasp faces or smells, were changed between each session so that the animal did not #x27;not associate a particular pair with the electric shock.

After four learning sessions and a break of three quarters of an hour, the wasp underwent a test supposed to check if she had integrated the notion of the same/not the same.

She was placed in a box where she had the choice between moving towards an extremity carrying a pair of identical stimuli or towards that carrying different ones. The correct choice is to move towards the pair of stimuli associated in his experience with the absence of an electric shock.

At first, the kind of stimulus (color, face or smell) was the same as in the learning phase, but not the stimulus itself, the color changed, for example. After ten trials, and a new pause, the experiment was repeated with a kind of stimulus never encountered by the animal, for example the smell after the colors.

In both cases, the Wasp passed the test with over 80% success, well beyond luck alone. A result completely independent of the kind of stimulus involved.

And a feat considering that the brain of this wasp, like that of the European bee, has less than a million neurons, when that of the pigeon exceeds 300 million and that of the macaque 6 billion, note the researchers. And that makes them think that learning the same/not the same concept may be more widespread among insects than anticipated.

Beyond that, they conclude that the miniature nervous system of insects imposes no limit on the sophistication of their behavior, according to the study.

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