Q&A: Fishy Driving: Can Fish Navigate Outside Of Water?

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Goldfish are able to drive vehicles, suggests a new study from researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel. Yes, you did read that correctly. The researchers studied the concept of domain transfer methodology, which refers to when a species applies an existing skill in an environment outside its own. In this study, the researchers investigated the ability of goldfish to transfer navigation skills from aquatic to terrestrial environments.

To carry out this study, the researchers constructed a Fish Operated Vehicle (FOV), consisting of a rectangular prism-shaped fish tank mounted on wheels. When the fish swam to an edge of the tank, the FOV would move in the direction of that edge. To test the terrestrial navigation capabilities of the goldfish in the study, the researchers mounted a colored panel on the wall of the examination room. The goldfish received a food pellet reward when they drove the FOV to the panel. The researchers found that even after changing the panel’s location or adding decoy panels, the goldfish were able to reach the panel consistently.

The results of this successful goldfish navigation led to several key findings. For example, goldfish are cognitively able to learn tasks outside their natural environment. Additionally, while you likely won’t catch a goldfish driver cruising down the highway alongside you anytime soon, the success of the goldfish navigation skills in both aquatic and terrestrial environments implies a potential universality in spatial representation, whether in water or on land.