How Intelligent are the Fishes?


Fishes are not simply colorful and lovable pets we keep around the corner of our homes for they are essentially more than that. Contrary to common beliefs, fishes are intelligent creatures and have certain unique abilities. They may have small-size brains but their ability to adapt and learn new things is just fascinating. So how intelligent are the fishes? In what way are they intelligent? Here is how…

Fish Have Good Memories

  • Fishes are able to distinguish between different shapes, size, and sounds. With this, fish will know who their owners are with their voice and size. This is why some fishes eagerly swims around when their owners approach their tank, but hides behind the decors when unfamiliar figures come.
 

  • Some scientists found out that fish trained to respond to certain sounds in captivity still reacted months later when they heard them in the wild. To cite an example, researchers from the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel have proven that fish have keen ears for sound and that they can remember it even after five months. Initially, they trained young fish to associate feeding time with certain sound played through a loudspeaker. Everytime that sound is played, the fish would return for food. After a month of training, the fish then were released into the sea and left to survive on their own. Four or five months after, when the fish have fully matured and are of marketable sizes, the sound was played again and the fish voluntarily returned. The study has huge economical and environment impact in fish farming. Firstly, it promises lesser production costs as cages would be limited, as well as the feeds and the number of workers. After some time, fishes would be released to the open where they shall mature naturally, and during this time, farmers are free from obligation. With the reduction of cages and farm facilities, pollution and grave abuse to the environment would also be prevented.
  • In another study, Dr. Theresa Burt de Perera of St. John’s College, University of Oxford placed Mexican cave fish on an underwater maze and the fish were able to memorize their course within hours. According to her, the fish created a mental map of the obstacle course, and more intriguingly, they are able to adapt to changes made on the course.
  • Dr. Culum Brown of the University of Edinburgh experimented on Australian crimson spotted rainbow fish. The fish were able to escape the nets inside their tanks and remember doing it again eleven months after.
  • Accordingly, goldfish are capable of remembering and learning and that they are more intelligent than trout.

Fish are Capable of Learning
  • Fish do not just act on instinct or impulse. Their actions are somehow guided and based on decisions. They are capable of learning new skills, observing and comparing behaviors, and consequently making judgments.
  • Dr Phil Gee of the University of Plymouth has found out that goldfish can remember things for at least three months. Further, the fish can also identify what time of the day it is. In an experiment, the fish were trained to press a lever in their tank to get food. They learned that pressing the lever produced a food reward. The lever was then adjusted so that it would only work at a particular time each day for one hour. Amazingly, the goldfish adapted and learned to nudge the lever only around that time. They even seemed excited as they clustered around the lever when feeding hour approaches, indicating that these animals remember their mealtime.
  • Researcher Dr. Mike Webster reports that many fishes such as minnows, sticklebacks, and guppies to be as smart as rats or mice. Accordingly, “they can their way around mazes, they can learn to recognize other fish, and they can remember which individuals are better competitors.”
 
  • Recent research has suggested that fish feel pain when they are caught on a hook, can be manipulative and socially aware, have long memories and are able to recognise their shoal-mates.
  • By watching other fish in their groups, fishes can learn to avoid being trapped in nets.
  • Fish can gather information by eavesdropping on others.
  • Scientists at St. Andrews University in Scotland found minnows, a small freshwater and saltwater fish belonging to the crap family, to be as intelligent as rats.

Fish Can Use Tools and Modify their Environment
  • Some fish can even use tools. The South African fish lays eggs on leaves so that they can readily carry them to safer places anytime.
 
  • Researcher Hiroki Hata of Kyoto University reports that damselfish can create gardens of its own preferred algae. The fish will bite off pieces of algae it does not want and swim and spit it out outside its territory.

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