Insects That Are Categorized As “Generalists” Are The Most Intelligent

January 28th, 2019

Insects That Are Categorized As “Generalists” Are The Most Intelligent

There are many blog articles on the internet about insect intelligence. Many of these articles attempt to argue in favor of one group of insects as being the most intelligent of all insects. Many people are interested to know just how smart some bugs can get. Given the size of insects relative to other animals, you would think that they could not be capable of any thought processes that could be described as advanced or complicated. The size of an animal’s brain does carry some weight as an indicator of intelligence. But size is not everything. Entomologists and other bug experts may disagree slightly on what factors indicate insect intelligence. One theory that is entertained by numerous experts involves a particular insects feeding habits. This theory states that the most intelligent insects must be “generalist” insects. Generalist insects are insects that are not limited to one particular type of food or habitat in order to ensure their continued survival

Many animals are considered generalists. Generalist animals have adapted the ability to survive in different habitats with different food sources available for sustenance. If an animal is limited to consuming one or a few types of food, then not much intelligence can be observed. Insects that only feed on one type of food, like leaves, do not need to know much or think much in order to continue surviving. These animals have not been faced with environmental challenges that require quick and novel thinking in order to survive. Insects that are able to consume many foods and can survive in a multitude of different environmental conditions, have evolved to make use of more resources in response to past environmental changes. Obviously, these insects had to be cognizant enough to make use of new and unfamiliar surroundings. Perhaps these insects adapted to survive off of new resources by resorting to trial and error. Or perhaps some insects were smart enough to find other resources that could enable them to survive solely by observing similarities between new types of food and the types of food that they had already become accustomed to before adapting. Mosquitoes and ticks, for example, are dumb for insects, as they only require blood to survive. Evolution has not forced these bugs to think outside of the box, so to speak. A bee, on the other hand, can feed on a variety of different flowers. Bees have used their minds in order to discover new resources that enable their survival in many different habitats that contain different flower types. This theory is closely related to the “social brain hypothesis.”

Do you believe an insect that has diversified into many different species over the course of evolution must also be intelligent?

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January 2019