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Do Fish Have Feelings?

Science By
(Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Scientists from the University of South Florida completed a study with giant manta rays, which helped them conclude that mantas can recognize their own reflection. In the study conducted at the Atlantis Aquarium in the Bahamas, the manta rays circled close to the mirror blowing bubbles and moving abnormally (see below).

In the animal kingdom, self-recognition is often an indication of self-awareness, an attribute reserved for creatures we deem to be the smartest like elephants or dolphins. In short, we might be underestimating the emotional and intellectual capacities of marine vertebrates. Here’s biologist Jonathan Balcombe’s take on the topic (he specializes in animal behavior and emotions):

“Because fishes inhabit vast, obscure habitats, science has only begun to explore below the surface of their private lives. They are not instinct-driven or machinelike. Their minds respond flexibly to different situations. They are not just things; they are sentient beings with lives that matter to them. A fish has a biography, not just a biology.”

Read Balcombe’s full argument in the New York Times here.