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Archerfish. Image source: awesomeocean.com
  • The Archerfish can be trained to recognize faces
  • Prior to this discovery, it was thought to be impossible
  • Scientists trained them with treats

Humans differ from other species in every sense of the term. Our physique, our body composition, and our mental capacity makes us stand out from the rest of the creatures on this earth. It is particularly our mental capacity, and our cognitive thinking that makes us to feel superior to other species and with this type of mental strength we are able to recognize when we discover new facts, and admit wrongs.

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A recent study published in the journal “Scientific Reports,” shows that we were wrong about fish, or at least one specific fish. The Archerfish, scientifically known as the Toxotes chatareus, which can actually be trained to recognize a human face.

Prior to this discovery, it was a universal fact that fish do not have a neocortex. The neocortex is a part of the brain in mammals. That is why this find is so interesting. When scientists look at the neocortex in mammals such as rats it is a smooth gray matter. When l we look at the neocortex in more advanced specifies such as humans and primates, it has grooves and these grooves increase the area of the neocortex. The responsibilities of the neocortex are as follows, sensory perception, motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious thought, and language in humans.

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The Archerfish has the ability to recognize patterns. When thoroughly trained, the fish can differentiate between two photographs of people, and with astonishing accuracy. Scientists chose the Archerfish because it spits water, allowing scientists to understand what it was trying to communicate.

The scientists used operant conditioning to train the fish. They presented pictures of faces to the fish and taught them to distinguish between the two, and choose one over the other. When they chose the correct face, the fish were rewarded with fish feed. This process was repeated for days and up to two weeks.

The accuracy of the fish shocked scientists. The fish were correct 81% of the time. The stunned scientists further when their accuracy increased to 86% when the pictures were changed a bit in regards to color tones and head shapes. The fish simply look for patterns among the faces.

Other studies like this one have been conducted in the past. In 2015, a study was done on Ambon damselfish (Pomacentrus amboinensis). This research found that these fish could recognize facial differences among their own species with the aid of ultraviolet wavelengths. It is thought that they use this facial recognition tool to communicate with each other silently, keeping predators in the dark.

-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono

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