Splatters can count | Science and life


Archer fishes have learned to hunt by spitting water at the sacrifice: they swim up to the surface of a lake or pond, look at an insect that sits above the water on a leaf or branch, and send a stream of water into it from their mouth. The insect falls, the archer eats it. Spit hits 1–2 meters, and fish very rarely miss.

This unusual way of earning food for oneself invariably attracts the eyes of researchers to the sprayers. For example, they are embarrassed to shoot water when other sprayers are looking at them. Several years ago we wrote about how they manage to hit with water at different distances: it turned out that the further the target is, the longer the “spitting” lasts, that is, the more water the sprinkler sends into the charge. Their incredible accuracy suggests that the splatter has very good eyesight and the corresponding neural apparatus in the brain. Indeed, they have excellent eyesight and visual memory: they are able to remember even a human face (although in life they do not really need it) and recognize it among several dozen strangers.

In a recent article published on the portal bioRxiv, the University of Trent staff write that sprayers know how to count. A disc with six points was hung over the water – the fish shot at it and received a reward. Then next to this disc they hung another one with a different number of dots. The sprinklers still hit where there were six points. The dots were made larger or smaller, changed their location on the disc, grouped them from the side or from above – the splatters invariably chose the right target. Finally, two discs were hung over the water, each of which had more than six points, and in this case the sprinklers chose the disc where the points were closest to six.

Maybe the splatters just have some kind of natural predisposition to the six? But the same results were obtained when the fish were taught to memorize a different number of points.

It can be assumed that the arithmetic abilities of the splatters are a consequence of their ability to distinguish between targets that need to be fired at. To knock an insect off a leaf above the water, you need to very well separate the insect itself, a leaf, some twig nearby, etc. late you will learn to understand what is “more” and what is “less”.


Source: Автономная некоммерческая организация "Редакция журнала «Наука и жизнь»" by www.nkj.ru.

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