World Beauties

Did you know that bees can recognize human faces?

bee-human-facesIt’s surprising that an insect with such a tiny brain is capable of image analysis when we instead have entire regions of our brain dedicated to solving that problem.

It was five years ago when a scientist from Monash University, Adrian Dyer, showed that bees, trained with a sugar reward, were capable of recognizing human faces. The bee flew to the photograph of the face to which he received the reward from him. That demonstration stunned the world.

But how do bees manage to recognize human faces?

So curious (like the readers of Curious Planet) Martín Giurfa, from the University of Toulouse, wanted to find the answer. He believed that bees could not distinguish human beings individually, but noticed the difference between the position of the features, perhaps it seemed to them that they were very strange flowers.

To do this, he tried two schematic images of faces. She used two dots for the eyes, a vertical line for the nose, and a horizontal line for the mouth. One of the images had tight features, while the other was far apart. The bees were trained to visit one of the two images, with a sugar reward. After the treat was removed, the bees kept coming back to the correct face.

The second experiment asked the bees for somewhat more sophisticated behavior. They were shown five pairs of different images. Only one was a face, and the rest a set of dots and dashes. The bees were rewarded with sugar only when they visited the face. After training them, they were shown a new pair of images that they had never seen before, and they recognized the one as a face. They had learned the relative arrangement and order of features on a face.

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