July 2, 2014
Fish Are Smarter Than You Think
It is popularly believed that fish have a memory span of only 30 seconds. Canadian scientists, however, have demonstrated that this is far from true – in fact, fish can remember context and associations up to twelve days later.
For fish living in the wild, ability to associate locations with food could be vital for survival. "Fish that remember where food is located have an evolutionary advantage over those that do not" said lead scientist Dr Trevor Hamilton. "If they are able to remember that a certain area contains food without the threat of a predator, they will be able to go back to that area. Decreases in the availability of food would promote the survival of species that can remember the location of food sources." Wild cichlids have a varied diet which includes snails, small fish, insects and plants. It is thought that they learn to associate locations with their preferred source of food. The researchers are now investigating whether the strength of fish memories are affected by environmental conditions or pharmacological drugs.
Dr Hamilton's interest in African Cichlids was first inspired by reports from aquarium owners, including his colleague Erica Ingraham, a student at MacEwan University. "There are many anecdotes about how smart these fish are" he said. "Some people even believe that their cichlids watch television with them."