Mushroom bodies

This is a picture of a stained slice out of the middle of a paper wasp brain. This specimen is from the Neotropical genus Leipomeles that was collected from Tiputini, Ecuador. She is a queen. My favorite thing about this slice is the nice resolution of the mushroom bodies, the insect neural centers of higher function (aka the nested rods at the top of the picture). Mushroom bodies are really cool!! Hymenoptera, the insect order that contains wasps and ants, have particularly big, elaborate ones and are particularly good, relative to many other insects, at tasks that require learning, memory, and sensory integration. All in those rods!! These have evolved similarly (ie, folding/elaboration and increase in size in both insect MBs and frontal lobe in vertebrates) but independently to centers of higher cognition in vertebrates. - Marie Clifford


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