Nature

Scientists taught a goldfish how to drive its tank around, and it’s adorable

Goldfish may have short memories but, according to an Israeli university study, they might be able to drive.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that a goldfish’s innate navigational abilities allowed it to steer a robotic vehicle towards a terrestrial target if given a food reward.

To conduct their unusual experiment, the team placed a fish tank on a set of motorized wheels.

labelled diagram of a goldfish driving a robotic fish tankThe experiment. (Givon et al., Behavioural Brain Research, 2021)

A camera system then recorded the fish’s movements in the water and translated it into navigational directions – effectively moving the contraption in the direction where the fish bumped up against the glass.

In a video released by the university, the fish can be seen “driving” the vehicle toward a visual target, a colorful mark on the wall of the experiment room, visible through the clear sides of the tank.

When the fish steered the vehicle to the mark, it received a food reward.

“After a few days of training, the fish navigated to the target,” the university team said in a press release.

“Moreover, they were able to do so even if they were interrupted in the middle by hitting a wall and they were not fooled by false targets placed by the researchers.”

The peer-reviewed research, published in the Behavioural Brain Research journal, “hints that navigational ability is universal rather than specific to the environment,” said Shachar Givon, a PhD student at the university’s Life Sciences department who worked on the experiment.

© Agence France-Presse

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