Fish Are Not Dim-wits
Fish do not deserve their reputation as the dim-wits of the animal kingdom, a group of leading scientists believe.
Far from being instinct-driven dunces, held back by a three-second memory, they say fish are cunning, manipulative, cultured and socially aware.
The scientists even say that, in some ways, the intelligence of fish could be favourably compared to non-human primates.
The views are held by three scientists from the universities of Edinburgh and St Andrew's in Scotland and the University of Leeds.
They say that conceptions of the psychological and mental abilities of fish had undergone a "sea change" in recent years.
Biologists Calum Brown, Keven Laland and Jens Krause wrote in the journal Fish and Fisheries: "Gone (or at least obsolete) is the image of fish as drudging and dim-witted pea-brains, driven largely by 'instinct' with what little behavioural flexibility they possess being severely hampered by an infamous 'three-second memory'.
"Now, fish are regarded as steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of manipulation, punishment and reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions and co-operating to inspect predators and catch food."
Recent research showed fish could recognise "shoal mates" and were aware of the "social prestige" of others.
They had also been observed using tools and showed impressive long-term memories, the scientists said.
August 31, 2003
Release from: Sky News