Friday 25 March 2016

The manta ray is the first fish to show self-awareness

MARCH 23, 2016

by Brett Smith

Once we reach a certain age, we understand that the person staring back at us from a mirror is just a reflection, and not someone else.

Several other animals, mostly primates, can also pass this “mirror test” that is said to show self-awareness and according to a new study published in the Journal of Ethology, manta rays might also be one of those animals.

In the study, researcher captured video of two giant manta rays swimming in a tank, with and without a mirror inside. The fish altered their behavior in a manner that indicated that they recognized the reflections as themselves rather than a different manta ray.

Furthermore, the rays did not show signs of social interaction with the image, which is what you should expect if they saw it as a different individual. Rather, the rays consistently moved their fins and circled in front of the mirror. This indicates they could see if their reflection moved when they moved. The regularity of these movements was much greater when the mirror was in the tank than when it was not, the study said.

Blowing bubbles for fun
The rays also exhibited a behavior the scientists conducting the experiment said they had never seen before: They blew bubbles.

“The behavioral responses strongly imply the ability for self-awareness, especially considering that similar, or analogous, behavioral responses are considered proof of self-awareness in great apes,” study author Csilla Ari, a physiology researcher at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told New Scientist.

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