Quirks & Quarks

Fish can recognize human faces

Fish can be trained to recognize and distinguish different human faces, a capacity thought to be too complex for them.

Fish can be trained to recognize and distinguish different human faces

Banded archerfish (James St. John, cc-by-2.0)
Humans and other primates are equipped with a specific circuitry in the brain that facilitates the recognition of faces. This capacity has also been found in dogs, horses and some birds.

But scientists, including Canadian Dr. Cait Newport, Marie Curie Research Fellow at the University of Oxford in England, wanted to know if a small, less complex brain than our own - a fish, for example - was capable of human facial recognition.

In her experiment, archerfish were trained with a food reward to recognize a specific human face when paired with as many as 44 other faces. They did this with over 80 percent accuracy. The study demonstrates that a complex brain is not necessary for human facial recognition. 

Related Links

Paper in Nature Scientific Reports
- University of Oxford release
- University of Queensland release
- Washington Post story

 



 

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