Animals’ sense of direction is not limited to their natural habitat. A new study shows that fish can drive quite well.
The results of the study were published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University in Israel taught six goldfish to steer a water tank mounted on a wheeled, motorized platform. The tank is equipped with a camera that constantly monitors the position and direction of the fish in the tank. The vehicle would move in that direction whenever the fish swam outward near one of the tank’s walls.
The fishes received "driving training" during 12 thirty-minute sessions. The researchers trained each fish to move from the center of a small room to a pink board on the wall, feeding the fish each time it reached the wall. During their first session, the fish made an average of 2.5 successful trips to the target. The average number of successful laps in the last sessions increased to 17.5. At the end of the driving training, the animals reached their destination using faster and more direct routes.
The fish also reached the pink board when the researchers started further experiments from random locations rather than from the center of the room. This finding showed that the fish not only memorized a route to reach the reward but also planned correct routes each time to reach the reward. When the researchers tried to trick the goldfish by placing different colored bait boards on other walls or moving the pink board across the room, the fish were not fooled and turned to the pink board again.
According to the researchers, this study shows that the ability to navigate, which is essential for animal survival in many areas, including finding food, shelter, and mates, applies to all species, regardless of their environment.