September 1, 2013
Goldfish Know Their Bach From Their Stravinsky
[ Watch the Video: Goldfish Have An Ear For Music ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe OnlineYour children might not be able to tell the difference between different pieces of classical music, but your pet goldfish can, according to researchers from Keio University in Japan.
As the Daily Mail reported, scientists from the Tokyo institution’s Department of Psychology wrote the fish were able to distinguish between the two famous composers 75 percent of the time.
Study authors Kazutaka Shinozuka, Haruka Ono, Shigeru Watanabe played Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by 18th century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and Rite of Spring by 20th century Russian composer Igor Stravinsky for the goldfish, Telegraph Science Correspondent Richard Gray explained.
They then trained four of them to bite on a red bead after hearing one piece, but not after hearing the other, and they would be rewarded with a food pellet for performing the task correctly.
“We developed an apparatus for measuring spontaneous sound preference in goldfish,” the authors wrote in a paper published in the October edition of the journal Behavioural Processes. “Music or noise stimuli were presented depending on the subject's position in the aquarium, and the time spent in each area was measured. The results indicated that the goldfish did not show consistent preferences for music, although they showed significant avoidance of noise stimuli. These results suggest that music has discriminative but not reinforcing stimulus properties in goldfish.”
“We can conclude that goldfish discriminate between Bach's and Stravinsky's music,” Dr. Kazutaka Shinozuka, who led the research, told Gray. “Of course music is artificial stimuli made by humans, so music itself does not have specific meaning for goldfish. But music consists of complex acoustic features. Ability to discriminate such complex auditory stimuli might be beneficial for fish in an evolutionary sense.”
After the goldfish were trained, they were divided into two different groups and trained to bite on the bead after hearing 20-second clips of either Bach or Stravinsky. The music was muted for varying amounts of time between each clip, The Telegraph explained, meaning the fish did not consistently hear the same music at the same times. Over the course of three sessions, the fish correctly distinguished between the two composers three-quarters of the time – however, it reportedly took the researchers over 100 training sessions to achieve those results.
“The scientists also tested to see whether the fish would recognize other pieces by the same composers that they had never heard before. However found they did not appear to recognize them and instead the fish swam around randomly,” the Daily Mail said. “In another experiment involving six different goldfish, the scientists found the animals did not appear to show any strong preference for a particular type of music.”