Experiments suggests archerfish can differentiate between numbers

By: Bob Yirka

Davide Potrich, Mirko Zanon and Giorgio Vallortigara, researchers at the University of Trento Italy, have found via experimentation that archerfish can distinguish between numbers. The study has been published on the bioRxiv preprint server.

Archerfish capture prey by placing their mouths at the surface of the water and sending a stream of water into the air at a target (such as an insect)—such targets are then overcome by the jet and fall into the water below, allowing the fish to grab and swallow them.

The researchers placed the fish in a tank of water and then placed a pair of disks over the top of it. The disks were marked with different numbers of dots. The researchers taught the fish to spit a stream of water at disks with a certain number of dots on them, such as six. They then showed the fish a series of disk pairs with different numbers of dots on them. They found that the fish would only spit at the disks with the number of dots that they had been trained to recognize. The researchers also tried changing the number of dots the fish had to choose from and found that the fish were still able to target the right disk.

The researchers suggest that the fish were able to count the dots to figure out which they were supposed to target.