Are fish aware of themselves? These fish recognize themselves in the mirror!

Are fish aware of themselves? These fish recognize themselves in the mirror!

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Are fish aware of themselves? Cleaner fish seem to recognize themselves in the mirror

Chimpanzees, dolphins, crows and magpies recognize their reflection as an image of their own bodies. So far, this has been seen as an indication that these species are conscious of themselves. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, the University of Konstanz and Osaka City University have now discovered that cleaner fish also react to their reflection and try to remove stains on their bodies when they see them in the mirror. The results indicate that these fish have significantly higher mental abilities than previously thought. At the same time, they initiate a discussion about how scientists can determine the intelligence of living things that are so different from humans.

In the classic mirror test, researchers mark the face or other parts of an animal's body with colored spots. In order to pass the test, the animals must carefully inspect the marked area or touch it specifically.

To check whether fish can recognize themselves in the mirror, the researchers examined the response of cleaner fish (Labroides dimidiatus) to a mirror test. Cleaner fish live in the oceans and feed on parasites on the skin of other fish. The scientists marked the fish at a point on the body that they could only see in the mirror. The test was passed if the fish rub the marked area on a surface and try to remove the paint.

In fact, the cleaner fish tried to remove the stains on their skin. If the researchers stained the animals but did not give them a mirror, the fish did not react to them, nor did they react to transparent markings that were not visible in the mirror. Cleaner fish also do not try to remove supposed stains on their own bodies when they see other marked species. They also do not react to stains directly on the mirror. “With all of these observations, we can rule out that the fish instinctively respond to parasite-like markings in their environment. Only the sight of spots on your own skin is therefore a stimulus for a cleaner fish to which it reacts. The behavior of the cleaner fish thus fulfills all the criteria for passing a mirror test, ”explains Alex Jordan from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology and the University of Konstanz.

Passed the test

Do the results now prove that cleaner fish actually have an awareness of their own self - a property that has so far only been attributed to some mammals and birds? Or are other skills required to pass a mirror test than previously assumed? “Our observations leave little doubt that the behavior of this fish meets all the criteria for passing a mirror test. On the other hand, it is less clear whether it can be concluded that fish are aware of themselves - even if in the past, many animals have been ascribed self-confidence after passing the mirror test, ”says Jordan.

The argument that the behavior of the fish is not clear enough to speak of a passed mirror test would question the general credibility of the mirror test. After all, the cleaner fish behaved similarly to other animals during the test with the same experimental setup. “The obvious explanation is that although the fish pass the mirror test, they are not aware of themselves. Rather, they recognize their reflection as an image of their own body, but do not understand what it means. So we have to critically examine the mirror test and consider whether it should continue to be used as the standard for self-awareness in animals, ”says Jordan. (pm)

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Video: Fish Appear to Recognize Themselves in the Mirror Is it self-aware? (November 2022).