Fast-learning fish have memories that put their owners to shame

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Fast-learning fish have memories that put their owners to shame Powered By Docstoc
					                                                   Sunday, October 3,2004

        Fast-learningfish have
          memories that put
        their owners to shame
BY ROBERT MATTHEWS                                                                                        nionths, confounding the
      Correspondent                                                                                       belief that they forget evc1.y-
                                                                                                          thing after a fen' seconds.
IF YOU thought fish were cold,                                                                               Ilr Culum Brown at the
wet creatures who forget every                                                                            University of has
thmg in three seconds flat,                                                                               found that Australian crimson
thmk agaln. Scienhsts have                                                                                spotled rainhowfish, which
found they are fast learners,                                                                             learnt to escape from a net in
&my mental maps around in                                                                                 their tank, reinembpred how
thew heads - and can retain                                                                               they did ~t 11 months later.
memotles for month5                                                                                       This is equivalent to a human
   Swimmlng gormlescly                                                                                    recalling a lesson learnt 40
around in them bowls or bnks,                                                                             years ago.
f ~ s h a w long been d~smlssed
      h                                                                                                      Dr Burt de Perera's findings
a c dunces compared w ~ t h                                                                               have heen welcomed hy fish-
"h~eher"an~mals      such as rats.   Theresa Burt de Perera found that flsh use thelr memorles            lovers as woof that their nets
cat; dogs and primates. This                                                                              w n do mire than blow thb-
view is now being challenged blind Mexican cave fish, them within a few hours. bles. "They are totally misun-
by findings that could re-ignite which rely on subtle changes Once stored in their brains, derstood," said Karen Youngs,
the debate over the cruelty of in pressure to detect the pres- the fish used their "mental the editor of Prmlical Wsh-
angling. Tests o n fish in ence of objects around them.            map" to spot changes in the keel~ing.             "We Imow from our
aquaria at Oxford University         In experiments, Dr Burt de obstacles around them - a readers that fish can recognise
have shown that despite their Perera found that the fish did feat that defeats hamsters.                  their owners, and some will go
tiny brains, they possess cogni- m o r e t h a n m e r e l y avoid    I n o n e t e s t , involving into a sulk if someone else tries
tive abilities outstripping those bumping into objects in their obstacles arranged in a spe- to feed them."
of some s~nall  mammals.           tank. They huilt a detailed cific order, the fish proved                  Mrs Yourigs added that the
   Dr Theresa Burt de Perera map of their surroundings, capable of memorising the resexch may inem (hat fish-
made the discovery using memorising the obstacles in order and quickly spotted owners have to make their
                                                                   when Dr Burt d e Perera aquaria a bit more interesting
                                                                   swapped obstacles around.              for their occupants: "We know
                                                                      According to Dr Burt de that fish such as oscars do
                                                                   Perera, the findings - which enjoy having a table-tennis hall
                                                                   appear in the current issne of to bash about."
                                                                   the Proceedings o lhe Royal
                                                                                         f                   Mounting evidcnce for fish
                                                                                                          intelligence is likely to re-
                                                                                                          ignite the controversy over
                                                                                                          angling, which has focused
                                                                    'We know that some mainly on whether fish can feel
                                                                       fish will go into a                pain. "This research moves the
                                                                    sulk if someone else dehaie along, by showir~g t t                k
                                                                                                          fish ;'t just swimming vegc-
                                                                      tries to feed them' tables." said Damn Carr, the
                                                                                                          director of People for the Icthi-
                                                                                                          cal Treatment of Animals.
                                                                   Society - show that fish are "The more we find nut ahout
                                                                   under-estimated.                       fish, the less likely people are
                                                                      "The public perception of to feel comfottablc about
                                                                   them is that they are pea- impaling them on a hook for
                                                                   brained numhsltulls that can't fun."
                                                                   remember things for more                  Anglers dismissed such
                                                                   than a few seconds," she told views. "Their intelligence just
                                                                   lke Szrndny Teleqraplz. "Wc're adds to the interest - it would
                                                                   now finding that they are very be awful if people were only
                                                                   c a p a b l e of l e a r n i n g a n d wtching fish that were stupid,"
                                                                   rememhcring, and possess n said Rodney Coldron, a
                                                                   range of cognitive skills that spokesman for the National
                                                                   would surprise many people." Federation of Anglers. "I think
                                                                      Laboratory tests on other it might attract more people to
                                                                   fish have found that they can fishing, by showing it's more of
                                                                   store memorirs for many an even contest."

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