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*Clears dust and cobwebs*

12. September, 2012


So,cyclopterus lumpus

I’m back.

Miss me?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

As my time of writing up is upon me, I feel this blog will become a very important procrastination tool. This may mean one of two things: 1) No more posts as I simply can’t summon the energy 2) Lots of posts with very variable quality. I may also decide to blog about all sorts of non-biological things. Or things that are biological but from a thoroughly unacademic angle.

First up, some papers on plos one you should all read:

PLoS ONE: Exploring or Avoiding Novel Food Resources? The Novelty Conflict in an Invasive Bird.

PLoS ONE: Prey Capture Behavior in an Arboreal African Ponerine Ant.

PLoS ONE: Learning Impairment in Honey Bees Caused by Agricultural Spray Adjuvants.

Next, a summary of the past year as seen by me:

They closed down my aquariums, which forced me to do some thinking about how to continue doing experiments. This culminated in me doing a four-month stint on the Faroe Islands from April to August where I carried on with two experiments:

  • Prey aggregation as a predator avoidance mechanism (the predator being a stickleback)
  • The use of lumpfish (Cyclopterus lumpus) as cleaner-fish in salmon farms

Both of these experiments I have to somehow fit into one thesis. Some of you may say, “well that’s easy, they’re both about fish”, to which I say “yes, but one is behavioural ecology and the other is applied animal behaviour”. One answers important biological questions, the other answers important practical/commercial questions. I should say attempt to answer for fear of sounding arrogant.

After spending all this time collecting data, I rushed off to ISBE2012 in Lund, Sweden to present the nice behavioural ecology data. The conference was amazing with so many exciting things to hear and learn about. Truly great. And I got to meet lots of “tweeps” (I hear that’s the term. I prefer Twits).

I believe the highlight of the conference for me was hearing about some lowly cleaner wrasse totally being able to compete with chimps on the mirror test! Boo ya! (Yes, very strong fish bias coming from this behaviourist).

The study was carried out by these people:

Kohda, Masanori; Hotta, Takashi; Takeyama, Tomohiro; Horie, Sayaka; Yoshimura, Naoya; Jordan, Alex

I can’t find it published anywhere yet. Hopefully, they’ll have published a paper soon, but here is the abstract taken from the conference program(pdf):

The ability for an animal to recognize its own reflection (self-recognition in mirror, «SRM») suggests a sophisticated cognitive ability, and has been demonstrated in highly social animals such as apes, elephant, dolphins and magpies. Among fish, cognitive ability is comparatively low, and SRM is assumed to be beyond the scope of fish cognition. We examined the potential for SRM in the cleaner wrasse, Labroides dimidiatus, which must recognize and respond to visual cues of ectoparasites on the bodies of client fish, and so is assumed to have relatively high cognitive and perceptual ability. We show for the first time that fish can recognize and respond to their own mirror image. We marked fish on the head or throat in locations that the fish could not directly see, and allowed the fish to examine their own reflection. Fish marked on the throat assumed a vertical body axis position in front of the mirror to examine the marks significantly more often than sham-marked fish, while fish marked on cheeks displayed the lateral side of their body to the mirror significantly more frequently. Furthermore, treatment fish attempted to remove the mark by scraping either their throat or chin against the sand bottom, as if trying to remove the «parasite» after observing it in the mirror, a behavior never observed in sham-marked fish. We conclude that cleaner wrasse can recognize their own reflections and respond in an ecologically relevant way, suggesting a level of cognitive ability never before reported in fish.


That is all.


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