by Jonah Smith, age 14
Humans can recognize their faces in mirrors and photos almost automatically. Ongoing research at Metropolitan University in Japan suggests that fish have the same ability. Being able to recognize your reflection or being self-aware, is an ability usually tied to intelligent animals, such as chimpanzees or humans. Finding this ability in fish suggests that self-awareness might be more common than scientists previously thought.
Previous research at Metropolitan University demonstrated that Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasses can pass a self awareness test using a mirror. To conduct the test, scientists expose an animal to a mirror for a long period of time. Once the animal gets acquainted with its reflection, scientists add a mark somewhere on its body. If the subject were to be self-aware, it would start to touch that spot on its body in hopes of getting rid of that mark. Before this research, only large-brained animals such as apes, dolphins, elephants, and magpies have passed the test.
Failing the mirror test should not be indicative of lack of self awareness. Other animals thought to have large brains, such as monkeys and ravens have not passed. Scientists also wonder if this is an appropriate test for animals who rely on other senses, or ones who don’t care about how they look. As a result of this, it makes it more surprising that a fish can recognize itself. [Read More]