These scientists taught a goldfish to drive a fish tank with motorized wheels

Goldfish can drive, although not like humans do. A group of this type of aquatic animals was trained to use a Fish Operated Vehicle (FOV, for its acronym in English) in order to complete a scientific experiment related to their navigation skills.

Curiously, the fish managed to drive the wheeled vehicle in a terrestrial environment. According to the researchers, this shows that fish have the ability to transfer their spatial representation and navigation skills to environments that are completely different from aquatic ones.

FOV, a fish tank with wheels

The experiment originated when a team of researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel set out to study the navigation ability of fish in the terrestrial environment. The ultimate goal of the experiment was to identify whether that ability is a universal function or dependent on the environment.

To carry out this unusual experiment, the researchers developed the Fish Operated Vehicle (FOV). It is basically about a fish tank located on a platform with motorized wheels, a small computer, LIDAR sensors, a mast, and a camera.

The camera was in charge of detecting the movements of the fish, and the computer transformed them into navigation directions. In consecuense, the FOV could move from one side to another responding to the commands of the colorful aquatic animal.

In the experimental sessions, the FOV with a goldfish (Carassius auratus) was placed in a certain place in a 3×4 m room with white walls. On one of the walls, the team placed a pink cardboard, which was the goal that the fish had to reach.

Fish Operated Vehicle 1
Fish Operated Vehicle 1

Every time the fish reached the target, it received a food reward. To the surprise of the researchers, after a few days of training, the fish sailed to the target on their own, even if they were interrupted along the way.

The team says their research, published in the journal Behavioral Brain Research, supports the hypothesis that “navigation ability is universal rather than environment-specific.” They also point out that goldfish have the cognitive ability to learn complex tasks in different environments.

Images | Flickr | Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

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