Thursday 3 December 2015

Do fish have emotions and a consciousness?

DECEMBER 1, 2015

by Brett Smith

We have mostly thought of fish as unfeeling animals driven purely by instinct, but a new study from a team of European researchers has found evidence that fish can feel emotions.

Published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the new study reported a significant rise in body temperature among zebrafish when they were exposed to stressful situation, a phenomenon referred to in other animals as “emotional fever”.

In the past, emotional fever has been observed in birds, mammals, and some reptiles, but never before in fish. The phenomenon has somewhat controversially been linked to consciousness in these animals.

In the new study, researcher from Spain and the United Kingdom split six dozen fish into two groups of 36, and they were then put into a large tank with various interlocking compartments with temperatures spanning from about 64 degrees F to 95 degrees F.

The fish in a control group were left undisturbed in the location where the temperature was at the level they prefer: 82 degrees F. The other group was exposed to a stressful situation—they were enclosed in a net within the tank at 80 degrees F for 15 minutes. After this period of time the test group was let go.

While the control fish remained in the compartments at around 82 degrees, the fish exposed to stress tended to maneuver towards the chambers with a greater temperature, escalating their body temperature by 2 to 4 degrees. The scientists said this demonstrated that these fish were showing emotional fever.

Can fish be conscious despite having a simple brain? 
Researchers disagree on the level to which fish can have consciousness. Some scientists debate they cannot have consciousness as their brain is simple and absent a cerebral cortex with little ability to learn and remember, a small range of behaviors, and no capacity to experience misery.

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