Dogs are easy. You talk, they respond–smart! Fish, not so easy. It’s not like we get the frequent opportunity to really interact with them–and for anyone who’s seen a goldfish repetitively doing the rounds in its bowl, it’s easy to buy into the old adage that fish have only a three-second memory. (Although, do you remember Gus, Central Park Zoo’s “neurotic” polar bear? Much like a goldfish in a bowl, the old guy repetitively circled his habitat in the same exact manner day in and day out. But no-one accused him of having only a three-second memory–he got diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder caused by boredom, and got an animal therapist. Only in New York…)
Anyway. Research may suggest the possibility that a fish circles its bowl because it really is just impossibly bored, not because it doesn’t remember that it just did it again and again and again. What does Dr. Kevin Warburton, adjunct researcher with Charles Sturt University’s Institute for Land, Water and Society, have to say about the three-second memory of a fish? “Rubbish!”
Warburton, who has been studying fish behavior for years says, “There’s been a lot of work done over the last 15 years on learning and memory in fish and it as been found that fish are quite sophisticated. Fish can remember prey types for months; they can learn to avoid predators after being attacked once and they retain this memory for several months; and carp that have been caught by fishers avoid hooks for at least a year. That fish have only a three second memory is just rubbish.”
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