Wasps 'eavesdrop' on rivals to see if they will lose to them in combat, say scientists who pitted insects against each other in 'fighting arena'
Paper wasps 'eavesdrop' on rivals to assess their potential opponent's abilities before engaging in combat themselves, a new study reveals.
Researchers uncovered this act of snooping by creating a fighting arena – two insects battled each other, while another couple observed from the outside.
Bystander wasps were then paired with one insect they had observed or a fighter they have seen before.
The team found that that spectator wasps were more aggressive when paired with an individual that was the victim of lots of aggression in a previous conflict, as well as individuals who initiated very little aggression.
The results suggest that even mini-brained insects have the capacity to learn remember and make conclusions about others.
The experiment was conducted by a team at the University of Michigan, which wonder if creatures with small brains have the ability to use social eavesdropping to learn about the fighting ability of potential rivals.
University of Michigan biologist Elizabeth Tibbetts, said: 'It is surprising that wasps can observe and remember a complex network of social interactions between individuals without directly interacting with them.'