Small insects are not simple: bumblebees have also learned to play ball!
Small insects are not simple: bumblebees have also learned to play ball!
These small insects have learned a kind of physical activity that is completely absent in nature.

this is a sporting event in the insect world-bumblebee bowls contest! The next player hugged the yellow ball and rushed straight to the finish line. Score! The contestant was rewarded with sugar water.

in fact, this picture is from a study recently published in Science, which shows us the excellent learning ability of these European bumblebees (Bombus terrestris). After watching the demonstration, they can successfully learn these complex bowling tasks that will not occur in nature at all.

in the experiment, the researchers asked the insects to move the balls on a plane and send them to the finish line to get a sweet reward. They set up different ways to "train" these bumblebee players.

the first players were trained with plastic fake bees glued to sticks, and the researchers controlled the plastic models to push the ball for the bumblebees to watch.

(I have to say, this fake bee really doesn't look like it.

(bumblebees who learn to get the ball into the hole)

while after the first batch of players are trained successfully, the next bumblebees are taught in different ways, one group watching the old "players" demonstrate, one group watching the ball move by itself (controlled by a hidden magnet), and another group without process demonstration, only seeing the ball into the hole and the corresponding reward.

next, it's time for new players to play. As a result, the bumblebees who watched the demonstration of the old players performed best, while the individuals who saw the demonstration of the magnet psychic drift performed better than those who did not watch the demonstration.

and it is also found in the experiment that these "players" do not mechanically copy the demonstration actions they see. For example, the researchers set three balls on the platform. At first, when the old players demonstrated, they fixed two of them and could not move. The old players could only push the farthest ball into the hole. When new players play, all three balls become movable, and new players actually choose the ball closest to the finish line to complete the task more efficiently, rather than simply following what they have seen before.

Clint Perry, one of the authors of the paper, said that these results show that those small brains are not necessarily simple, they can accomplish a lot of tasks beyond our imagination.

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PS: when reporting on this study, the media were divided over the ownership of this emerging ball game. Newscientist thought it was a golf game, while nature news used football. Which one do you think it is more like?