BEER-SHEVA, Israel – A goldfish in a small robotic vehicle proves that animals from different environments can still find their way when you take them out of their comfortable habitat. A team from Ben-Gurion University in the Negev successfully taught the little fish to navigate a car on land.
The researchers wanted to know if an animal’s innate navigation abilities only work in their home environment or if these skills are universal. To test this, they attached a set of wheels under a small goldfish aquarium. Using a specialized camera system, they recorded and translated the movements of the fish into directions for the wheels – forward and backward and side to side.
During the experiment, the team tested whether the goldfish was really pointing the car in a certain location by placing clearly visible targets on the wall outside the fishbowl. After a few days of learning the system, the fish were able to successfully move the car to the target they wanted to see up close. The fish even showed an ability to recover and get back on track after hitting a wall or encountering false targets on the walls.
“The study suggests that navigation capability is universal rather than specific to the environment. Second, it shows that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn a complex task in a completely different environment from the one in which they evolved. As anyone who has tried learning to ride a bike or drive a car will know, it is a challenge at first. ”, Explains Shachar Givon, doctoral student in the Department of Life Sciences at the Faculty of Natural Sciences, in a press release.
The results are published in the journal Behavioral research on the brain.