Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Way back when I had a time to maintain a freshwater aquarium (pre-career and pre-children), my favorite fish were a pair of firemouth cichlids, Thorichthys meeki. This happy couple reproduced and guarded their eggs faithfully, only to have the plecostumus hoover ‘em up when Mr. and Mrs. Meeki let down their guard one night. Cichlids are fascinating, and seem to me to be among the more intelligent and “personable” of home aquarium fishies.

Biologists at Stanford have confirmed my suspicions that cichlids aren’t just a pretty scale or two. Logan Grosenick et al. report in the January 25 issue of Nature that Astatotilapia burtoni, a species in which the males aggressively joust for territory, defend food sources and nesting spots, etc., were able to discern as bystanders which among five others actually duking it out for territory were the strongest and the weakest in a logical reasoning process called transitive inference. The bystanders, when exposed to the other fish, would go after the smaller fry. Transistive inference shows up in human children around the age of 4 or 5.

So are these biologists at Stanford saying that this fish may have an advantage over other fish? It may be, in fact, a kind of `Super-Fish’!*

For more on the study, please see the article in Live Science, Fish Capable of Human-like Logic.

* A la “The Simpsons”, Two Cars in Every Garage, Three Eyes on Every Fish.