Goldfish are music connoisseurs –

Posted by Google News | Industry News | viernes 30 agosto 2013 10:24 pm

Professor Sigeru Watanabe, who supervised the research at the department of
psychology at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, said: “Psychologically, music
can be considered to have two types of properties: discriminative stimulus
properties and reinforcing properties.

“These properties are apparent in humans, because we can easily recognise and
enjoy a variety of types of music.

“Several studies have investigated whether these properties of music exist in
non-human animals.

“Goldfish (Carassius auratus) are known as a hearing specialist species, since
they have evolved a structure to enhance auditory signals detected by the
inner ear.

“This suggests that goldfish have evolved specific features for hearing and
can recognise complex auditory stimuli similar to those recognised by modern

The scientists, whose research is published in the journal Behavioural
, first trained four goldfish to bite the bead and receive
a pellet of food from a tube in their tank.

They were then divided into two groups and were trained to do this when either
20 second long clips of Bach or Stravinsky were playing.

Between each clip the music was muted for varying amounts of time – meaning
with each session the clips of music the fish heard were not consistently
the same.

The goldfish were then trained to either bite the bead to one piece of music
and to do nothing when the other was playing.

The researchers found that the fish were able to distinguish between the music
around three quarters of the time.

However, the fish were not fast learners – it took more than 100 training
sessions before they were able to distinguish the pieces.

But the fact goldfish were able to distinguish two types of classical music at
all was impressive given that some humans will claim they struggle to

In reality, however, humans are highly attuned to distinguish between pieces
of music – a fact evidenced by the tendency for songs to become stuck in our

The scientists also tested to see whether the fish would recognise other
pieces by the same composers that they had never heard before.

However found they did not appear to recognise them and instead the fish swam
around randomly.

The researchers said they believe the fish might be able to distinguish
between new music if they had been trained with several pieces by each

In a second experiment involving six different goldfish, the scientists found
the animals did not appear to show any strong preference for a particular
type of music.

However, like humans, the fish did seem to show some individual tastes – one
fish avoided Bach’s music and preferred Stravinsky while another of the fish
avoided Stravinsky.

Professor Watanabe said: “For those subjects, the musical stimuli might have a
certain kind of reinforcing properties, although it was not consistent among

“On the other hand, three of the six subjects did not show any preferences for
areas of the tank in which music was presented.”

Bach’s music seemed to be preferred by one of the fish involved in the

The findings go some way to disproving myths that suggest goldfish are
relatively simple creatures with low levels of intelligence.

In fact recent research has suggested that goldfish can have a memory span of
up to three months.

Research in rats, carp, parrots
and pigeons has also shown that they too can distinguish between different
types of music.

Song birds such as the Java
sparrows have also shown that they develop distinct musical taste
s –
some prefer classical music while others prefer modern and others avoid
music altogether.

Professor Watanabe added: “Species which show preferences for music might have
some relevant phylogenetic contingencies in their evolutionary history.

“For example, both humans and songbirds have evolved to acquire complex
auditory learning abilities, namely ones specialised for language and song.

“The common existence of such abilities in certain species might lead those
species to imbue music with reinforcing properties (a preference for a type
of music).”

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