Neat: scientists teach goldfish to drive on land

·2 min read
Neat: scientists teach goldfish to drive on land
Neat: scientists teach goldfish to drive on land

Israeli scientists have taught fish to drive on land by placing a fish tank on a go-cart loaded with laser-sensing technology, a camera, and motion detection software.

The study represents part of a process in determining how animals can respond and adapt to unfamiliar environments, the authors say, and whether "space representation and navigation mechanisms are dependent on the species, ecological system, brain structures, or whether they share general and universal properties."

When a fish 'driver' swims toward a wall in the fish tank that sits atop the vehicle, the cart moves in the same direction. Over several days, scientists attempted to train six fish, one at a time, to operate the device.

"We tested whether the fish could drive the vehicle towards a target in return for a food pellet reward which was identical to the fish regular food," the authors say in the study.

"Every time the fish reached the target, which was defined as the moment the vehicle touched the pink corrugated board, a single 0.002 g food pellet was dropped by the experimentalist into the water tank, the water tank was then covered to prevent any visual feedback to the fish and the FOV [fish-operated vehicle] was driven manually back to the starting position for the next trial."

Eventually, the fish learned to steer their vehicle towards a pink target in a three-by-four metre room, a skill they carried out even when their starting position was changed. Scientists tried to trick them by placing decoy targets in other colours, but the fish still went for the pink one.

"These results demonstrate how a fish was able to transfer its space representation and navigation skills to a wholly different terrestrial environment, thus supporting the hypothesis that the former possess a universal quality that is species-independent," the authors say.

Bonus - you don't have to leave it to the scientists to form your conclusions: the authors have published detailed instructions on how to build your very own fish-operated vehicle.

Thumbnail: Custom graphic created by Cheryl Santa Maria. Goldfish image: Canva Pro.

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