New Research Sheds Light on the Fascinatingly Complex Lives of Fish

Posted by on June 23, 2014 | Permalink

They may be covered with scales and breathe in water rather than air, but if you look below the surface, you’ll understand that fish are far more similar to us than you might have realised.


We’ve long known that fish are sensitive and feel pain. Now some fascinating new research has uncovered more details about their sophisticated intelligence and social lives. The following are some of the findings from a new study carried out by biologist Culum Brown of Macquarie University in Sydney:

  • Fish can multitask. Like humans, they are able to use different hemispheres of the brain simultaneously for different tasks.
  • Fish – yes, including goldfish – have excellent long-term memories.
  • Schools of fish are complex societies, in which traditions are passed down through generations, showing that fish have the capacity to learn. They are also able to recognise themselves and others.
  • Some fish demonstrate so-called “Machiavellian intelligence”, such as traits of cooperation and reconciliation with other members of the group.
  • Fish can also master tool use. In one study, cod figured out how to use a dorsal tag to pull a piece of string in order to release food from a feeder.

Despite the growing body of evidence that fish are complex, interesting individuals who value their lives, globally, humans eat more fish than any other animal. What’s more, fish are generally killed without any regard for their welfare – sometimes cut open while conscious or left to suffocate, slowly and painfully, on the decks of fishing boats.

As Professor Brown, the scientist behind the study, concluded, “We should therefore include fish in our ‘moral circle’ and afford them the protection they deserve”.

Of course, millions of people around the world already show respect to our fishy friends by refusing to eat them – including actor Joaquin Phoenix. Check out his video below, then, if you haven’t already, please pledge to leave fish in the ocean, where they belong, by trying out a vegan diet.