Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Guppies: Study sorts the maths whizzes from the dunces

Heightened sense of mathematical concepts enhances 'survival of the fittest' among fish Date: December 5, 2016
Source: Springer

Some guppies have a better sense of maths than others. It allows some to find the biggest shoal possible in which to be protected against predators, while others are better at choosing fruitful foraging ground. This is according to research conducted by Tyrone Lucon-Xiccato and Marco Dadda of the University of Padova in Italy in Springer's journal Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology.

It is well known that some people and animals such as chimpanzees and African grey parrots are simply better at solving mathematical and numerical problems than others. It helps them compare and distinguish between quantities, and to make decisions accordingly to adapt to their surroundings. Because very little work has so far been done to establish whether individual animals belonging to different species also possess such enhanced mental abilities, Lucon-Xiccato and Dadda turned to guppies (Poecilia reticulata). Theirs is the first study of its kind on fish. Three quantity discrimination tests were set to 26 guppies kept under laboratory conditions.

For guppies, safety in numbers is important. Living together in shoals provides them with better protection against predators. To find out if these fish can distinguish between bigger and smaller shoals, individual guppies were introduced to a new tank that provided no cover or refuge, but in which shoals of either four or six others swam. Two foraging tasks were also set. In the one, the fish had to choose between four or six food items, and in the other between different-sized bites.


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