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Honeybee (Apis mellifera) vision can discriminate between and recognise images of human faces
Adrian G. Dyer, Christa Neumeyer, Lars Chittka


Recognising individuals using facial cues is an important ability. There is evidence that the mammalian brain may have specialised neural circuitry for face recognition tasks, although some recent work questions these findings. Thus, to understand if recognising human faces does require species-specific neural processing, it is important to know if non-human animals might be able to solve this difficult spatial task. Honeybees (Apis mellifera) were tested to evaluate whether an animal with no evolutionary history for discriminating between humanoid faces may be able to learn this task. Using differential conditioning, individual bees were trained to visit target face stimuli and to avoid similar distractor stimuli from a standard face recognition test used in human psychology. Performance was evaluated in non-rewarded trials and bees discriminated the target face from a similar distractor with greater than 80% accuracy. When novel distractors were used, bees also demonstrated a high level of choices for the target face, indicating an ability for face recognition. When the stimuli were rotated by 180° there was a large drop in performance, indicating a possible disruption to configural type visual processing.

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