Face Off: Wasps trained to recognize cousins to avoid punishment

palestis Metricus paper wasps ( Polistes metricus; left top) at the University of Michigan have been trained to recognize the individual faces of a related species, the golden paper wasp (Polistes fuscatus), to avoid potential pain. Naturally, P. metricus lacks individual recognition, even among its own nest mates. With the lack of individual color variation and solitary nesting behavior of P. metricus, there has been no evolutionary need for recognition behavior to develop. This is in stark contrast to P. fuscatus (left bottom), whose unique facial patterns and communal nesting reinforces the need for individuals to recognize one another for continued cooperation. Each adult P. fuscatus’ face has a specific pattern, making each wasp uniquely recognizable. By raising individuals of these 2 species together, the normally oblivious P. metricus has gained the ability to not only recognize specific wasp faces, but to associate individual P. fuscatus images with pain and actively avoid them.

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EcoTribute: The Axolotl

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In this tribute we discuss the axolotl and its almost God-like powers. May they hold the key to maintaining a youthful glow? For references and more information, check out the Spotlight on the axolotl for here.

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EcoTribute: Algae. What is it?

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So what’s the deal with algae? In this tribute we discuss the what, the why and the “OMG, really?” behind these perplexing organisms. For more information check out the  algae spotlight found here.

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Spotlight: Algae

Most of us have heard the term algae used when we see that slimy green goo caked on rocks along the beach, or when we see a mold-like muck in the water of an outdoor Jacuzzi that’s overdue for a clean. You may have even heard of them in the news, with headlines reading “Dangerous algal bloom appears off the coast”. But what actually are algae? Are they plants? Fungi? Is it even alive or just some kind of aquatic debris that collects over time? And what purpose could they possibly serve?

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Mariah Scott: The mussel queen

Mariah Scott is a 2nd year graduate student in the Biological Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She was raised in Dearborn, Michigan; a diverse, suburban city most known for being the headquarters of Ford. With her parents and sister, growing up involved frequent road trips to Lake Michigan or the woods where her enthusiasm for the outdoors would frequently result in her clothes being caked in mud. This messy trait would later inform her career, as for years her research involved digging in the waterbeds of rivers and streams in the pursuit of her science.

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Spotlight: The Axolotl

Hidden within Lake Xochimilco in Mexico City, lives the axolotl. With a collar made of gills and a paddle-like tail, this slow, slimy creature spends its days swimming along the lake floor, sucking up insects that come into its path. With its alien body and blank stare, this under water critter has been capturing the hearts of budding biologists and animal enthusiasts for decades. But what actually is an axolotl, and does it warrant all the hype it receives?

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First Conference? Ours too.

Oh, the world of academic conferences. A wealth of the biggest names in your field all clustered together for high powered talks, mingling, and possibly a little too much alcohol. Our senior correspondent attended the Animal Behavior Society conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they’ve reported back the dos & don’ts to make sure you draw the most from your conference experience.

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