Ancient GPS. Scientists have figured out how goldfish navigate in space
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Researchers have studied how fish measure distance using the visual density of the environment.
You can spend hours watching goldfish swim up and down in the aquarium. But it wasn't enough for scientists to simply observe the fish, they decided to find out how they navigate in space – it turned out that goldfish have a very sophisticated navigation system that allows them to measure distance, writes The Guardian.
Earlier studies have already shown that most fish can successfully navigate in space. But previously, scientists have not been able to figure out what mechanisms they use to do this.
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A group of scientists from the University of Oxford conducted a series of tests on goldfish to unravel the mechanism of work from the built-in GPS. The researchers hope that understanding these mechanisms may shed light on whether such brain cells are involved in the human brain's internal GPS.
During the study, scientists created a special aquarium with black and white stripes 2 centimeters wide. Vertical stripes were located on the walls of the tank, as well as on the floor. The study involved 9 fish, which the team trained to swim along the tank. When the goldfish were waved, they returned to their original position – the length of the distance of the fish was 70 centimeters.
After the scientists decided to check whether the fish are able to swim the same distance, but without the help of people. Scientists conducted four tests: in the first, the fish were offered to swim by switching vertical stripes 1 cm wide, the second – the pattern changed to cells with squares 2 centimeters wide, the third – horizontal lines two centimeters wide, the fourth – the lines were aligned in the direction of movement of the fish.< /p>
In total, each goldfish made 45 swims for each of the five patterns. The results show that with a standard background and a background with 2 cm vertical stripes, goldfish swam an average of about 74 cm (plus or minus 17 cm). At the same time, the scientists found that in the background with vertical stripes 1 cm wide, the fish turned back much earlier. And when using a background with horizontal stripes, goldfish behaved completely inconsistently.
The experiment proves that goldfish use a type of “mechanical optical flow” in their navigation system, which is based on the visual density of the environment. In simple terms, goldfish tracked how often the vertical pattern was replaced by white and black stripes – this became a guideline for determining the length of the distance.
According to scientists, mammals, including humans, use a slightly different mechanism based on angular movement of the visual function. However, researchers are confident that the use of visual information for navigation arose early in our evolutionary past.
By the way, scientists also came to the conclusion that goldfish also used other mechanisms to calculate the distance traveled – for example, the number of strokes of their fins, as well as measuring the distance from the reference point in the form of a tank wall.