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.

Scientists produce new study relating to Antiepileptic drugs and breastfeeding

According to a study published in JAMA Neurology, and according to the press release presenting it, mothers taking anticonvulsant drugs for epilepsy can support breastfeeding for children.

This study comes at a time in history when there is in fact no single consensus within the medical community regarding the positivity of breastfeeding while taking antiepileptic drugs by the mother.

However, as the press release presenting this study specifies, previous studies had measured only the concentrations of antiepileptic drugs in breast milk and not how much of these drugs were actually metabolized by the baby.

In this new research, scientists from the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota did just that: they analyzed blood samples from breastfed babies between 5 and 20 weeks after birth and blood samples from mothers as well.

Angela Birnbaum, one of the authors of the study, explains the results: “We measured drug concentrations directly in infants that reflected the overall exposure of the drugs to the baby through breast milk. Our study supports breastfeeding for mothers with epilepsy who are taking anticonvulsant drugs. This means that primary care providers can have more informed conversations with recent and expectant mothers about the possibilities of breastfeeding their baby.”

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Microrobots as big as insects can fly and move on land and water

Robots the size of insects were built by researchers at the University of Washington. Called RoboFly, they are small winged robots weighing only around 150 pounds that can fly, move on the ground and even touch the surface of the water.

As explained in an article presented on arXiv, taken from Tech Xplore, these small robots have fewer components than other robots of similar size, which of course makes them easier to build. The small robots try to imitate their biological counterpart by performing a sort of multimodal locomotion: aerial flight, earth movement and movement on the water surface.

The RoboFly is an adaptation of the RoboBee, another microrobot that Sawyer Fuller, one of the authors of this project, had already developed near Harvard University. To simplify the construction of such small robots, which are usually made under the microscope because they have to be assembled with extreme precision, the researchers invented a new method: a single sheet of laminate can be bent to form the robot and therefore there are no parts to attach or assemble.

Thanks to its flapping wings, when it flies through the air it can easily steer and change direction, just like insects do. It can also glide over water as well as walk on land, making it a unique microrobot.

Potential uses could see search and rescue missions or missions to look for pollutants or leakage of dangerous fluids into the water.

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