Biologists caught the fish they have a «collective mind»

Biologists caught the fish they have a «collective mind»© RIA Novosti. Mikhail Tsyganov

Biologists have discovered a kind of «collective intelligence» as the ordinary fish-sticklebacks, allowing them to solve multi-step, complex tasks, without possessing a large and costly brains of primates and other intelligent animals, according to a paper published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.

«Fish are able to integrate their knowledge and experiences and collectively solve multi-step task of obtaining food. We expect similar skill and system of interaction between leaders and subordinates in the group can help other animals to solve a variety of tasks, starting with the search for new sources of food to determine migration routes,» write Mike Webster (Mike Webster) from St. Andrews University (Scotland) and his colleagues.

A gregarious or collective species of animals have developed during the evolution of surprisingly complex behaviour strategies that they can flexibly change on the fly depending on the current situation. For example, flocks of birds can not only fly in the form of a wedge or line, but «falling to pieces» for the area, if they encounter predators. The same behavior exhibited by fish and dolphins have developed a unique group of tactics of hunting them.

As Webster says, many of these types of «synchronized swimming» or «simultaneous missions» don’t require complex brain or some forms of telepathy for his existence – almost all of them are described by fairly simple mathematical formulas and rules that evolution has brought in the course of millions of years of evolution ancestors of such animals.

One of the distinguishing features of man and, as it turned out recently, chimpanzees, is the ability to combine the information of known individuals or individuals and use this «knowledge Bank» for solving problems, excessive a monkey or person.

Webster and his colleagues found that a similar skill is typical for the most primitive vertebrates – the usual fish-sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus), watching as two populations of the fish trained to solve simple tasks, operate in new conditions.

The first flock of sticklebacks lived in the aquarium, the bottom of which was a maze in which was hidden the food. The place where the fish food was «glowing» green beam led bulb that stickleback could use for a quick search of food.

The second group of fishes lived in another aquarium, food which was in a kind of «trough» – box of metal mesh, which was done two small hole on each side. Fish, as shown, is long enough learned to look for the entrance to the box, as the smell of worms, laying inside her, spread equally well in all directions.

You will be assimilated

When fish learn to perform both task, scientists have connected the puzzle and check the stickleback will respond to such changes. In some cases, the team of Webster United the fish from the other groups and others have watched the actions of individuals or allowed in the fish aquarium, it is not familiar with these mysteries.

These experiences have led to extremely interesting results – it turned out that the swarms of sticklebacks, which was attended by at least a few fish from each group developed some form of «collective intelligence» that helped them to quickly find food, using personal knowledge of individuals.

This «mind» is, interestingly, worked even in the presence of a large number of newcomers to the shoals of sticklebacks, as new members just followed already trained fish, repeating their actions and reaching the trough is actually already in the first 10-20 seconds after start of the experiment.

On the other hand, fish that could only do one or the other thing, spending hundreds of times more time actually learning from scratch to solve the mystery with which they were not familiar. This, according to Webster, is the main indicator that a «collective mind» really worked and helped the fish to adapt more quickly to new situations.

The presence of such capacity in a relatively primitive fish, as scientists believe, suggests that the ability to combine individual knowledge into a sort of collective «data Bank» could play an important role in the evolution of living nature and formation of social instinct behavior of our ancestors and other animals that can survive in very diverse environmental conditions.