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University of Stirling: Are Fish Sentient?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016 | By Angus (US International) | Tagged: , ,

Have you ever wondered how it feels to be a fish?

A recent collaborative study between scientists at the Universities of Stirling, Bristol and UAB Barcelona has uncovered indications that fish can experience an ‘emotional fever’-like state in response to stress.  In other words, fish get upset when treated badly.

Zebrafish stressed by handling and restraint voluntarily increased their body temperatures for a few hours after release by selecting warmer regions of a thermal-gradient tank.

The study’s lead author is University of Stirling Research Fellow, Dr Sonia Rey; "Our study reopens the discussion upon sentience in fish…This will have a bearing on the development of future regulations and mitigation measures around fish…it has been claimed to date that they have no consciousness. This research removes one of the key arguments underpinning that claim."

Dr Simon MacKenzie, Reader in Marine Biotechnology at Stirling University, said: "Our study has significant impact upon our understanding of how fish use thermal choice to optimise their response to stress. This game changing observation will have far reaching implications in how we approach research in fish and how we consider their welfare."

Image credit: Tohru Murakami on Flickr

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