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Mahmoud Bennett

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New study suggests fish may feel emotions

Mar 24, 2023

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Mahmoud Bennett

Social Media Producer/Reporter

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A recent study published in the journal Science has found that fish may be capable of feeling emotions. The study demonstrated that fish can detect fear in other fish, and then become afraid too, indicating a capacity for empathy, according to the researchers.

The study also found that a fish’s ability to feel emotions is regulated by oxytocin, the same brain chemical that underlies the capacity for empathy in humans.

To demonstrate the phenomenon, the researchers deleted the genes linked to producing and absorbing oxytocin in zebrafish, a small tropical fish often used for research. The fish then became essentially antisocial – failing to detect or change their behavior when other fish were anxious.

When oxytocin levels were restored, the fish began acting similarly and mirroring the emotions of other fish. “They respond to other individuals being frightened. In that regard, they behave just like us,” said University of Calgary neuroscientist Ibukun Akinrinade, a co-author of the study.

The study also showed that zebrafish will pay more attention to fish that have previously been stressed out – a behavior the researchers likened to consoling them.

Humans catch and farm fish at a rate of 11 times the combined number of cows, chickens and pigs slaughtered globally, and this number is projected to rise. The seafood market was a 250 billion dollar industry in 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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finding nemo: “FISH ARE FRIENDS. NOT FOOD”

MAHMOUD BENNETT:

IT TURNS OUT FISH MAY HAVE FEELINGS AFTER ALL ACCORDING TO A NEW STUDY PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL SCIENCE  – THE STUDY FOUND THAT FISH ARE  CAPABLE OF DETECTING FEAR IN OTHER FISH AND BECOMING AFRAID THEMSELVES

THE RESEARCHERS FOUND EVIDENCE A FISHES ABILITY TO FEEL EMOTION IS REGULATED BY OXYTOCIN – THAT’S THE SAME BRAIN CHEMICAL FOUND IN HUMANS AND PLAYS A MAJOR ROLE IN OUR CAPACITY FOR EMPATHY

THE RESEARCHERS DEMONSTRATED FISH HAD EMPATHY BY DELETING THE GENES RESPONSIBLE FOR OXYTOCIN IN ZEBRAFISH – WHEN THEY DID, THESE CRITTERS BECAME ANTISOCIAL AND WEREN’T ABLE TO REGULATE BEHAVIOR OR RESPOND TO OTHER ANXIOUS FISH

BUT WHEN OXYTOCIN LEVELS WERE RESTORED – THEY BEGAN ACTING SIMILARLY AND MIRRORING THE EMOTIONS OF OTHER FISH – IN WHAT THE CO-AUTHOR OF THE STUDY BELIEVES IS EVIDENCE FISH ARE MORE SIMILAR TO HUMANS THAN WE THINK

THOUGH WHETHER FISH WILL EVER BE FRIENDS NOT FOOD ANYTIME SOON IS UNLIKELY: THE SEAFOOD MARKET WAS A 250 BILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY IN 2022 

AND ACCORDING TO ONE ESTIMATE HUMANS CATCH & FARM FISH AT A RATE OF 11 TIMES THE COMBINED NUMBER OF COWS, CHICKENS, AND PIGS SLAUGHTERED GLOBALLY –  A NUMBER THAT’S PROJECTED TO RISE