British biologists have discovered that bumblebees possess the rudiments of abstract thinking by observing how these insects groped or looked at various shapes made of sweet sugar or bitter quinine. This was reported on Thursday by the press service of the Queen Mary University in London (QMUL) with reference to an article in the journal Science.
“We have known for a long time that bees can memorize the shape of flowers. A smartphone can cope with the task of recognizing objects, for example, a human face, but it does this without the presence of anyone consciousness. Our experiment shows what happens in the head of bumblebees something that radically distinguishes them from machines. In other words, insects can form a mental image of objects and forms, "said Lars Chittka, head of laboratories at QMUL, quoted by the university's press service.
Over the past 10 years, scientists have found a lot of evidence that many animals have those "advanced" intellectual abilities that were previously attributed only to humans. For example, the New Caledonian ravens know how to make and use tools, having previously evaluated their effectiveness. Chimpanzees know how to assess the situation in which their comrades are and give them useful tools, and pigeons have rudimentary arithmetic skills.
"Advanced" intellectual abilities do not end with representatives of the vertebrate world. Many collective wasps, as biologists discovered two years ago, are able to memorize the faces of their relatives and make primitive inferences, which is also typical for domestic and wild bees.
Chittka and his colleagues discovered another surprising feature in the close relatives of bees, the common bumblebee, by observing how these hymenopterans used their senses, including sight, touch, and taste, to forage for food.
During the experiment, scientists released insects into special cages, on the field of which were installed cups filled with "edible" geometric shapes of various shapes and sizes. Some of them were made from pure sugar, while others contained quinine, an extremely unpleasant tasting substance. The shape of the figure was directly related to her taste.
According to the researchers' idea, the insect must grasp this logical pattern and learn to use it using a combination of senses or just one of such channels for obtaining information. To do this, scientists either turned off the light in the cage or did not allow the bumblebees to feel them.
Much to the surprise of the experimenters, these experiments showed that bumblebees did not lose the ability to recognize sweet cubes or balls if scientists changed the environment in the cage and deprived insects of their usual ways of collecting data. In particular, bumblebees, which recognized sugar by shape, quickly learned to do the same by feeling them, and vice versa.
All this, according to Chittka and his colleagues, suggests that insects form an abstract image of an object and use it when making inferences, and do not perceive information through each sense organ separately. This once again blurs the line between human and animal intelligence, the authors of the article conclude.