Are fish intelligent?

Fish are capable of all the main kinds of learning that have been reported in mammals.
– Dr. Maria Martina Quaggiotto, Lecturer in Ecology, University of Stirling.

Signs of intelligent life in the sea

There’s a little fish that’s common in the Atlantic Ocean called the frillfin goby. As with most fish, there is nothing about the goby to immediately suggest any special abilities or intelligence. Yet gobies do something so remarkable it has changed the way scientists view fish intelligence.

Gobies spend a lot of time in tidal pools, left behind when the tide is out. They are essentially trapped in those pools until the tide comes back in. Often, the gobies jump from pool to pool, but how do they know where the next pool is and how far to jump?

Scientists have researched this question for a number of years and have concluded that the gobies are able to memorize the positions of the pools so they know exactly where to jump. This ability to make a mental map demonstrates that gobies (and likely other fish) have good memories and can determine where they are in relation to their surroundings (referred to as “spatial learning”). These abilities are considered indicators of intelligence in animals.

Fish Are Way Smarter Than You Think

Many people assume that fish are less intelligent than mammals, but it turns out that isn’t true at all – they are actually way smarter than you probably giv…

Fish have also been found to use tools.

The tuskfish holds clams in its mouth and bangs it on rocks to crack the shell and eat the clam, using the rock as an anvil.

Zebrafish can recognize and remember other individual fish in their own group.

The wrasse, a small fish found in tropical reefs, can recognize itself in a mirror – an ability suggesting self-awareness previously thought to be confined to humans and a few other animals such as primates and dolphins.

Want to learn more? Watch these videos:

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What would make this fish as smart as you?

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Read this book:

What a Fish Knows

What a Fish Knows by Jonathan Balcombe and narrated by Graham Winton is a delightful and very informative book on fish. It explains how fish can feel pain, probably pleasure too, can plan, remember, scheme, communicate, and think! They have preferences, can be trained, seem to enjoy certain activities or people over others, and they use tools.

Or, check out these articles:

Read more:

Can fish feel pain?

Fish are in trouble

How you can help fish

Main page: The new facts about fish