FEB 25, 2021 8:52 AM PST

Do Fish Have Personality?

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Fish may seem to just swim around without much thought or character. But new research reported in Ecology and Evolution has suggested that actually, fish have personality, which they exhibit in their behavior. The researchers suggested that the way a fish swims can reveal a lot about what kind of fish it is; the movement and broad patterns of behavior seen in fish indicate that they have a 'micropersonality.'

A three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) / Credit: Dr Andrew King, Swansea University

The study did not use anthropomorphic adjectives like bold, adventurous, shy, or sedentary, but showed how different fish could be described this way. In this work, the researchers tracked the movement of fifteen different three-spined stickleback fish that were swimming in various tanks that either contained two, three, or five plastic plants that stayed in the same places. Video recordings of the fish were taken and analyzed by computational tools that indicated how much time the fish spent stationary, moving, stopping and starting, and how often they turned.

The analysis showed that the fish moved in very different ways. These experiments were also highly repeatable; the researchers could identify each fish just based on its movement data from different experiments with different environments.

"These micropersonalities in fish are like signatures - different and unique to an individual. We found the fish's signatures were the same when we made simple changes to the fish tanks, such as adding additional plants," said study co-author Dr. Ines Fürtbauer of Swansea University.

"However, it is possible these signatures change gradually over an animal's lifetime, or abruptly if an animal encounters something new or unexpected in its environment. Tracking animals' motion over longer periods and in the wild will give us this sort of insight and help us better understand not only personality but also how flexible an animal's behavior is," added Fürtbauer.

Additional work will be needed with other species to see whether this is a more generalized feature of animals, and whether similar patterns exist in species that dwell on land or that fly.

"Our work suggests that simple movement parameters can be viewed as micropersonality traits that give rise to extensive consistent individual differences in behaviors," said lead study author Dr. Andrew King of Swansea University. "This is significant because it suggests we might be able to quantify personality differences in wild animals as long as we can get fine-scale information on how they are moving, and these types of data are becoming more common with advances in animal tracking technologies."

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via Swansea University, Ecology and Evolution

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
JUL 27, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Growing Microbes to Feed the World
JUL 27, 2021
Growing Microbes to Feed the World
With the ever-increasing population on earth, feeding the world is requiring more food production than ever before. The ...
JUL 30, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Megadrought Brings Western US Lakes to Record Lows
JUL 30, 2021
Megadrought Brings Western US Lakes to Record Lows
The megadrought affecting the western United States is not letting up, even though the monsoon season has begun. The lat ...
AUG 26, 2021
Plants & Animals
Flavonoid-rich Foods Help Regulate Blood Pressure
AUG 26, 2021
Flavonoid-rich Foods Help Regulate Blood Pressure
Flavonoid-rich foods may have a positive effect on blood pressure levels, though according to new research, the secret t ...
SEP 14, 2021
Plants & Animals
Ant Teeth Can Function Like Miniature Metal Tools
SEP 14, 2021
Ant Teeth Can Function Like Miniature Metal Tools
Researchers have discovered the secret to the powerful cutting ability of ants: they have teeth on the outside of their ...
SEP 15, 2021
Plants & Animals
Using Food Waste To Make Rechargeable Batteries
SEP 15, 2021
Using Food Waste To Make Rechargeable Batteries
Back in 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) estimated that nearly 133 billion pounds of food went to waste, ...
SEP 16, 2021
Plants & Animals
Climate Change Is Already Bad for Corn Production. Weeds Make It Worse.
SEP 16, 2021
Climate Change Is Already Bad for Corn Production. Weeds Make It Worse.
Climate change is accelerating, causing more severe droughts, heat, and flooding. The United Nations Intergovernmental P ...
Loading Comments...