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Fish recognize human faces

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archerfish/Lucid Exposure, Fotolia

From ScienceDaily:

A species of tropical fish has been shown to be able to distinguish between human faces. It is the first time fish have demonstrated this ability.

First author Dr Cait Newport, Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, said: ‘Being able to distinguish between a large number of human faces is a surprisingly difficult task, mainly due to the fact that all human faces share the same basic features. All faces have two eyes above a nose and mouth, therefore to tell people apart we must be able to identify subtle differences in their features. If you consider the similarities in appearance between some family members, this task can be very difficult indeed.

‘It has been hypothesized that this task is so difficult that it can only be accomplished by primates, which have a large and complex brain. The fact that the human brain has a specialized region used for recognizing human faces suggests that there may be something special about faces themselves. To test this idea, we wanted to determine if another animal with a smaller and simpler brain, and with no evolutionary need to recognize human faces, was still able to do so.’

The researchers found that fish, which lack the sophisticated visual cortex of primates, are nevertheless capable of discriminating one face from up to 44 new faces. The research provides evidence that fish (vertebrates lacking a major part of the brain called the neocortex) have impressive visual discrimination abilities. More. Paper. (public access) – Cait Newport, Guy Wallis, Yarema Reshitnyk, Ulrike E. Siebeck. Discrimination of human faces by archerfish (Toxotes chatareus). Scientific Reports, 2016; 6: 27523 DOI: 10.1038/srep27523

The fish in question are archerfish, whose mode of life depends on correctly identifying a target. That probably has something to do with it. A mole might not recognize anyone’s face, including its own.

The take-home point is that intelligence does not depend on having a specific type of brain. On what, then, does it depend?

See also: Furry, feathery, and finny animals speak their minds

and

Does intelligence depend on a specific type of brain?

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7 Replies to “Fish recognize human faces

  1. 1
    vjtorley says:

    Hi News,

    Readers may be interested to know that wasps can recognize each other’s faces:

    http://news.nationalgeographic.....e-animals/

    Here’s how:

    http://www.sci-news.com/biolog.....-face.html

    Learning to recognize a face may or may not involve consciousness.

  2. 2
    News says:

    vjtorley at 1, quite true. One does not, after all, know what a fish thinks it is seeing when it is seeing a human face. Do fish recognize each other’s “faces”?

    I believe the authors felt that the significance of their research was that apparent brain structure does not determine brain capacity.

  3. 3
    clown fish says:

    This doesn’t really surprise me. I have a tank with a couple fish (Ocellaris, of course) and they react whenever I approach the tank, but not when others do. That may because I am the only one who feeds them. I blame their subjective morality.

  4. 4
    vividbleau says:

    Clown

    Well we all know your the expert on fish, being one yourself. I’m a little surprised that you don’t live in a tank, how’s that work? 🙂

    Vivid

  5. 5
    clown fish says:

    Vivid, I find the tank too constraining. But I do look good in orange. Not everyone can pull that off.

  6. 6
    Robert Byers says:

    This is welcome if true.
    It shows all biology is greatly controlled by memory.
    One does not need a brain. Or rather the brain, I say, is oNLY a memory machine. So animals likewise have this memory.
    If human intelligence was in a giant brain then why would evolutionism welcome excellent memory operation in fish?
    It questions the presumption that brain size is relevant to thinking in biology.

  7. 7
    bornagain77 says:

    OT:

    The light Organ of the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid . Evolution, or design?
    A NOCTURNAL hunter, the Hawaiian bobtail squid creates its own light—not to be seen, but to be unseen—to blend in with the ambient moonlight and starlight. The animal’s secret is its partnership with light-emitting bacteria. That partnership may also hold secrets that could benefit us, but in a seemingly unrelated way. It may benefit our health.
    Consider: The Hawaiian bobtail squid lives in the clear coastal waters of the Hawaiian Islands. Light from the moon and the stars would normally make the silhouette of the creature stand out to predators below. The bobtail squid, however, emits a glow from its underside that mimics ambient night light in both intensity and wavelength. The result is stealth—no silhouette, no shadow. The squid’s “high-tech” apparatus is its light organ, which houses bioluminescent bacteria that produce just the right glow to camouflage their host….
    http://reasonandscience.heaven.....-or-design
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCU8Tuv9FrE
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCobcWsYOS8

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