There’s a wasp that can recognize the faces of its own kind

A team of researchers at Cornell University discovered that a species of wasp Polistes fuscatus, also known as the golden paper wasp or northern paper wasp, can literally recognize the faces of other specimens of its species, a feature that the vast majority of insects cannot boast.

According to the researchers, this is one of the evolutionary characteristics that this animal has developed in order to work more and more profitably together. In fact, the wasp is one of the best known social animals and one of the most intelligent and able to cooperate.

As Michael Sheehan, professor of neurobiology and behavior, one of the authors of the study, explains, this is a surprising discovery since, at least for this species of wasp, the strongest selective pressure was the one that sees the comparison and participation and not other causes that may concern, for example, the climate, parasites or prey.

There are several vertebrate animals that can recognize the individual faces of specimens of their own species but among insects, it is something very rare. The only insects that can boast “facial recognition” are those that form common societies and see the presence of several queens.

Among the insects which see the presence of only one queen, a characteristic of the genus has not developed because evidently it is not very useful, but among those insects, like the Polistes fuscatus, for which there are also 5 or 6 regimes, the face-to-face recognition is fundamental also for the queens themselves in order to negotiate between them and direct the “trades.”

The study is available on Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.