Scientists train goldfish to drive on land in toy cars

If the arrival of 2022 makes you think “new year, new me,” get in line, because the humble goldfish took reinvention to a whole new level in a recent study that got them to drive on earth. Proving they are able to dominate (read: navigate) alien environments, participating fish recently got behind the wheel of custom fish vehicles (FOVs) to hit targets in exchange for a treat. Everyone is true: fish can drive now.

The illuminating research comes from scientists at Ben-Gurion University in Israel, who wanted to explore whether navigation skills depend on species, environment, or brain structure, or whether animals share generalizable skills that they can incorporate when, for example, thrown into a water tank. with wheels on dry land. Their results were published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research.

“One way to explore this problem behaviorally is with domain transfer methodology, where one species is integrated into the environment of another species and faces an otherwise familiar task (in our case, the navigation) “, wrote the study authors. “Here we are pushing this idea to the limit by studying a fish’s navigational ability in a terrestrial environment.”

The navigation task involved goldfish “driving” to a visual target in their terrestrial environment that they could see through the walls of the reservoir. Curious about how exactly one learns to drive a goldfish? We were too.

“Animal training usually follows a typical reinforcement (conditioning) procedure that ‘teaches it’ what behavior you want,” Ohad Ben-Shahar told IFLScience. “In our case, this was to allow the fish to randomly ‘explore’ the field of view and its behavior, receiving a reward (a food pellet) once it hit a designated target. time, usually several days, the fish becomes proficient enough to understand what its target is and that it should direct the FOV towards it. “

The FOV, which facilitated the sequel Need For Speed: Fresh out of the bowl (which strongly follows The Fast and the Furious: Rodent Rage) was actually a tank on top of a wheeled platform that responded to the movements of the goldfish. The trained fish were then able to steer the FOV by swimming in the direction they wanted to go. There were six conductors in total, all of whom were goldfish (Carassius auratus) and varied by gender.

Not only were the fish able to hit the targets, but they were able to overcome obstacles, dead ends and wrong turns, and were not fooled by false targets set by the researchers. Their FOV Formula One demonstrates that fish navigation skills do not depend on a watery environment, and that something more universal may be at play in deciding how we find our way.

“The study suggests that the navigation capability is universal rather than environment specific,” said lead author Shachar Givon in an emailed statement to IFLScience. “Second, it shows that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn a complex task in a completely different environment than they were in. As anyone who has tried to learn to ride a bike or ride a bike will know. car, it’s a challenge at first.

Could your next Amazon package arrive via Goldfish courier? Come on, Jeffrey, you can do it.


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