Fish can cheat, and apol­o­gise af­ter­wards

Think of in­tel­li­gence in the animal world and you rarely think of fish. But there’s grow­ing ev­i­dence to show that the var­i­ous species liv­ing in the planet’s wa­ters have greater in­tel­lects than we’ve given them credit for

Focus-Science and Technology - - Contents - WORDS: DR HELEN SCALES

Many peo­ple don’t think of fish as be­ing in­tel­li­gent. Fish brains are too small and they’re too dis­tantly re­lated to hu­mans to be clever; they lack feel­ings; they can’t feel pain – at least that’s how they’ve been type­cast. Their sim­ple­minded rep­u­ta­tion means that peo­ple still tend to treat fish dif­fer­ently from other an­i­mals, with far less con­cern for their wel­fare (just imag­ine if we slaugh­tered cows by drown­ing them in the sea).

In the past, many sci­en­tists over­looked fish in­tel­li­gence and didn’t bother test­ing for it. Those that did of­ten used ex­per­i­ments that weren’t rel­e­vant for these an­i­mals, with senses so dif­fer­ent from our own. But the sci­ence of fish cog­ni­tion is catch­ing up, and new stud­ies are show­ing that fish are much smarter than pre­vi­ously thought. Signs of higher in­tel­li­gence among fish are not only forc­ing a re­think of their lives and the way we treat them, but also how brains and animal in­tel­li­gence evolved.

These remora use mod­i­fied dor­sal fins to at­tach harm­lessly to larger an­i­mals, en­joy­ing the pro­tec­tion of­fered by the host

The pores all over the snout of this le­mon shark are called am­pul­lae of Loren­zini. They are present on all sharks and rays, and are a ‘sixth sense’, al­low­ing the sharks to de­tect elec­tri­cal sig­nals com­ing from the move­ments of other an­i­mals – even if they’re un­der­neath sand

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