The task: find an object that you are visually familiar with, such as your keys, by rummaging around with your hand in your bag. For humans, it’s a piece of cake. You can easily recognize, through touch alone, something you’ve previously seen.
This ability to experience an object in one sensory modality and later recognize it in another is called cross-modal object recognition. It’s actually a highly complex cognitive capacity that was thought to be limited to vertebrates. Cross-modal object recognition has been demonstrated across vision and touch in humans, apes, monkeys, and rats; across vision and hearing in dolphins; and across vision and electric sense in the weakly electric elephantnose fish. Whether the ability is widespread throughout the animal kingdom has been debated.
Now, a group of researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Macquarie University in Australia show that bumble bees are capable of performing this task.