Pharyngula

Zebrafish

Some observations on working with zebrafish:

Their vision isn’t as reliable as I thought. They would try like there’s no tomorrow to swim through the Plexiglas wall when there’s a hold only a few inches over. If I want to continue my experiments without having an aneurysm, I’ll have to make a few changes.

1 – The walls will have to be marked up opaque so that the fish don’t keep trying to swim through them.

2 – Since they have trouble navigating the single chamber, I’ll have to use plastic sheets to funnel them toward the door.

3 – I have a new set of tests to run. Is it the food that draws the fish into the food chamber, or is it the pheromones of the “social reward” of other fish that is repulsing the fish away. Once I get back to school after Thanksgiving, looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Comments

  1. #1 frankly
    November 21, 2007

    Could you stop by during break and redesign my house so I won’t keep running into that sliding glass door?

  2. #2 Peter Ashby
    November 22, 2007

    Fish fail the mirror test too. Had a Siamese Fighter (Betta splendens)in a tank with a small mirror behind it. He would spend ages displaying to the other fish in he could see who was also displaying to him. We put a background on the tank to stop him wearing himself out, so he started displaying at the guppies…

    Frankly’s comment reminds me of my first big international science conference. It was actually a big combined event as part of the Australian Bicentennial celebrations. I had just finished my Honours degree and was a month into my PhD. I turned to descend the stairs to the room I was to speak in and walked hard into the glass door at the top in front of dozens of people. I managed to pull myself together for the talk and fortunately was not bleeding.

    Oh happy days!

  3. #3 SeattleJew
    November 22, 2007

    Hmm ..

    Fish have other sorts of sense organs that may be more relvant to your expt ..esp the lateral line.

  4. #4 Alan Kellogg
    November 22, 2007

    The only thing a zebra fish trying to swim through an invisible barrier proves is that zebra fish are stupid.

  5. #5 Walt
    November 22, 2007

    Perhaps sauteing them in a pan of butter might be a more eatifying experiment.

  6. #6 p4limpsest
    November 22, 2007

    Yeah, I could really sink my teeth into a 3.8 cm fish right about now. Mmmmmm…tiny.

  7. #7 Jim Thomerson
    November 22, 2007

    Zebras are minnows, as are goldfish. Both have been domesticated for a long time and have probably lost much of what little sense they had in the wild. Many years ago one of my pschyologist friends forgot to order goldfish for a class experiment. So I loaned her some of my wild-caught blackspotted topminnows.

    The experiment was to put the goldfish in a two-chamber tank. Flash a light, then give a light electric shock shock they could escape by going into the other chamber.
    As I recall, the goldfish took maybe 30 trials to learn, and became very agitated and upset. My Fundulus took a couple of trials to learn to move to the other chamber and were very calm and composed about the whole thing.

  8. #8 Caio Maximino
    December 3, 2007

    As I recall, the goldfish took maybe 30 trials to learn, and became very agitated and upset. My Fundulus took a couple of trials to learn to move to the other chamber and were very calm and composed about the whole thing.
    Yes, I had the same problem with cyprinids. My lambaris, as characids, were waaaaay much smarter; it took them approximately 5 trials to learn the inhibitory avoidance task, contrasting with goldfishes, which needed about 10 trials to learn the same task…

    Fish fail the mirror test too. Had a Siamese Fighter (Betta splendens)in a tank with a small mirror behind it.
    Well, Siamese fighting fish are very much motivated by the opportunity for displaying. In fact, you can use it as a reinforcer in operant conditioning…

    The whole point here, I think, is trying to adequate the task to the animal’s behavioral ecology, as well as his sensory capacities. What Piaget would call “ecological validity”, only that “ecological” is less of a metaphor here =)

New comments have been temporarily disabled. Please check back soon.