Tag Archives: Insects

Insect Colonies Share Brain Power

social insects

Scientists recently performed a study comparing the complexity of brain function in social insects as opposed to solitary insects. They found that unlike vertebrate species, which evolve to have increasingly complex brains the more complex the society becomes, social insects that share information among the members of the colony reduces their need for complex brain function and the complexity of their cognitive brain functioning actually decreased as the complexity of their societies increased.

In vertebrate animal societies as the social environment grows more complex over generations the cognitive abilities of the individuals in that society are forced to adapt and also become more complex. More complex social societies tend to have an increased amount of competition between their individuals. As individuals have to navigate more and more challenges such as conflict over resources, their cognitive abilities are forced to evolve in order to continually sharpen their intelligence so they can continue to survive in more and more complex societies.

However, in social insect species the colony tends to be made up of family groups, with the children staying to help their parents, and while there may be some conflict in these colonies, the survival of the group depends on their ability to work together as a cohesive unit. The more cooperative structures of social insect colonies end up affecting the evolution of the brain differently.

Researchers studied the brains of 29 related species of wasps from Costa Rica, Ecuador and Taiwan. They studied both solitary and social species that had varying colony sizes and structures. They found that the solitary species had evolved to have larger brain parts associated with complex cognition used for such things as spatial memory, associative learning, and multi-sensory integration. On the other hand, the social insect species had less complex cognitive function. The researchers believe that this is because social insect colony members are able to rely on group members, meaning they don’t have to invest as much energy in more complex individual cognitive functions. These social species evolved to survive cooperatively, utilizing such things as sharing information among colony members, which reduces the need for individual cognition.

Do you think humans could have evolved in this manner if we had more cooperative societies, or is that impossible due to our conscious brains? How might our humans society be different if our brains had evolved in the same way as our societies became more complex?

A Colorectal Surgeons Love for Odd Bugs

A prominent colorectal surgeon named Dr Francis Seow-Choen is already fascinated with bugs of the parasitic sort found in the human gastrointestinal system.  However, he grew up fascinating over other types of creep-crawlies–Stick and Leaf Insects.

The surgeon has just completed his fourth and most comprehensive book covering the vast species of these types of insects.  So comprehensive in fact that the doctor dedicated twenty years of his life to studying the species found in his book, and the book itself took three years to complete.  His book looks extensively at fifty-two different and new species of leaf and stick insects located in Borneo.  Even the director of Natural History Publications of Borneo has found the doctors book to be a major advancement in entomological science.

What makes the good doctors discoveries so unique to bug-science is that finding these particular species of bugs is incredibly dangerous as locating them for study normally involves spending several days and nights in the harsh south east Asian jungles.  Also, stick and bug insects are, as you would assume, very difficult to find in the wild, as these bugs are known for their evolutionarily advanced forms of camouflage.  The doctor has risked his life in the harsh and dangerous wilderness to indulge his love for these unique bugs, or, just maybe, he needs a break from examining people’s rectums, you make your own call.

Do you have a labor of love similar to this? What is it?