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Robust long-term social memories in a paper wasp

By Michael J. Sheehan and Elizabeth A. Tibbetts

Abstract

SummaryRemembering individual identity is necessary for the complex, individually-differentiated social relationships found in many vertebrates, including humans. Despite the complexity of social insect colonies, individual social insects are generally thought to have simple, undifferentiated relationships. Here we show that Polistes fuscatus paper wasps, which individually recognize conspecifics, remember the identity of social partners for at least a week, even if they interact with ten other wasps. Therefore, social interactions among paper wasps are based on robust memories of past interactions with particular individuals rather than simple rules. Considering the small size of wasp brains, these results suggest that at least some aspects of social cognition may not be as cognitively demanding as is generally assumed

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd.
Year: 2008
DOI identifier: 10.1016/j.cub.2008.07.032
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