Magazine article Natural History

Fishy Logic

Magazine article Natural History

Fishy Logic

Article excerpt

"Pick your battles wisely" is sound advice that people forget all too often. We could learn a thing or two from Astatoti/ap/a burton/, a little cichlid fish from the shallows of Lake Tanganyika in central Africa. New research shows that A. burton! possesses surprising powers of logic-for a fish. The males can deduce the pecking order among their rivals after watching only some of them fight each other.

Logan Grosenick and his adviser, Russell D. Fernald, a biologist at Stanford University, along with a colleague, placed "bystander" fish in the central part of an experimental tank. There the bystanders could watch staged, one-on-one fights between five rival males in compartments around the tank's perimeter. To establish a dominance hierarchy among the rivals, the investigators predetermined the outcome of each fight by handicapping one contender-removing it from the water to stress it, then placing it in the other's home tank. …

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