• Fish able to distinguish composers around three quarters of the time
  • They even developed personal tastes, claims study by Japanese team

By
Daily Mail Reporter

23:49 GMT, 30 August 2013


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23:52 GMT, 30 August 2013

Goldfish may be forgetful, but when it comes to classical music, it seems they know what they like.

They can distinguish between a piece by 18th century German composer Johann Sebastian Bach and one by 20th century Russian Igor Stravinsky, a study found.

Japanese researchers played goldfish Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. They trained four of them to bite a red bead on hearing one piece, but not the other.

Fishy: Goldfish have evolved to develop similar hearing mechanisms as seemingly far more complex animals, said researchers who painstakingly trained them to tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky

Holy mackerel! Goldfish have evolved to develop similar
hearing mechanisms as seemingly far more complex animals, said
researchers who painstakingly trained them to tell the difference
between Bach and Stravinsky

Professor Sigeru Watanabe, from the department of psychology at Keio University in Tokyo, Japan, said goldfish have evolved to develop similar hearing mechanisms as seemingly far more complex animals.

He said: ‘Humans… 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 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 vertebrates.’

The researchers carried out several experiments, and eventually trained four goldfish to either bite the bead to one piece of music and to do nothing when the other was playing.

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

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

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.

Painting of Johann Sebastian Bach
Russian composer and conductor Igor Stravinsky, aged 83

Academic fishing expedition: Like humans, the fish did seem to show some individual tastes – one fish avoided music by Bach, left, and preferred Stravinsky, right, while another fish avoided Stravinsky, the study found

In another 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 added: ‘For those subjects, the musical stimuli might have a certain kind of reinforcing properties, although it was not consistent among individuals.

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

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

According to popular myth they have a memory span of only 15 seconds.

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

The comments below have not been moderated.

Bet they love Handel’s ‘Water Music’ !

Keith
,

Kettering,
31/8/2013 09:20

I’m no goldfish but even I can tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky

Expat-reader
,

Moscow Russia,
31/8/2013 08:53

That’s all we need now – a Japanese goldfish psychologist !

Glider
,

Evesham,
31/8/2013 08:30

My goldfish prefers a good classical play as he feels classical music somewhat limited.

ebo
,

burnley,
31/8/2013 08:10

Wonder what star sign it was born under? My dog is an Aries, but my goldfish is an Aquarium!

Millie6
,

West Yorkshire,
31/8/2013 07:55

I think what the fish might detect is vibrations coming through the water which affects their whole bodies – much as you can `feel` the music in a loud disco. One only has to listen to Bach and then to the persistent `thump thum` beat of the rote of spring and it is no wonder the fish can tell the difference. Place a glass of water close to your hi-fi speaker and you will see different vibration patterns on the surface of the water with different music. «Goldfish turned on by Stravinsky seeks job as a jack-hammer operative»

Roy
,

Billericay, United Kingdom,
31/8/2013 07:48

You can’t base your opinion of an entire species on a study of four individuals. Flawed.

liking nyc
,

NYC, United States,
31/8/2013 07:25

Goldfish are orange. Scientists are weird.

liking nyc
,

NYC, United States,
31/8/2013 07:24

Is the next step to train the goldfish to tell the difference between JS and JC ?

BARGET
,

SOUTH YORKSHIRE, United Kingdom,
31/8/2013 07:17

I would have thought even an ant could tell the difference between Bach and Stravinsky.!

BARGET
,

SOUTH YORKSHIRE, United Kingdom,
31/8/2013 07:12

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