2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
Scientists at the University of South Florida have concluded that stingrays can be self-aware. This is stated in an article published in the Journal of Ethology.
Biologists studied the possibility of self-awareness in two giant sea devils (Manta birostris) by filming them in a small pool of water where a mirror was placed. The researchers observed the behavior and interaction of fish with their own reflections. This is called the mirror test, which is a classic animal psychology experiment to determine if an animal is able to recognize its reflection in a mirror. This ability serves as the main indicator of the presence of self-awareness in animals. As a control experiment, the scientists also placed a white matte board in water, which made it possible to determine whether the animals were responding to their reflection or simply to a new object.
The researchers noticed that giant sea devils changed their behavior when a mirror appeared in the pool. The stingrays did not react to the reflection as they did to another individual, and did not try to interact with it. Instead, they swam up to the mirror and moved in front of it, which, according to scientists, may indicate that the fish followed their movements. In addition, they blew air bubbles in front of a mirror - a behavior that biologists had not previously observed.
In general, when the mirror was in the pool, the giant sea devils spent almost 70 percent of the time around it; if there was no mirror, they were only about 20 percent of the time in the observation area. Stingrays also spent significantly more time near the mirror than near the whiteboard (p <0,0005).
According to the researchers, this behavior may indicate that stingrays have self-awareness, but this cannot be said with certainty. The author of the mirror test himself, Gordon Gallup, was skeptical of the results obtained and noted that the behavior of stingrays can be a sign of curiosity. “Humans, chimpanzees and orangutans are the only species for which there is compelling, reproducible evidence of self-recognition in the mirror,” he comments. Therefore, the question of whether giant sea devils have self-awareness requires a more detailed study. “It would be nice if someone did neuroimaging while animals respond to reflection,” Gallop notes.
Magpies were also able to pass the mirror test a few years ago. At first, the birds were accustomed to the sight of a mirror, after which a sticker was attached to their necks, which they could not see without the help of a mirror. The birds tried to get the sticker with their beak, which, according to scientists, indicated that the magpies recognized their reflection.