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Playful Fish

October 27, 2014

Some fish appear to play with objects in their tanks.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A cichlid fish strikes a bottom-weighted thermometer that would immediately right itself. It was often struck repeatedly in bouts Ann Hawthorne

A cichlid fish strikes a bottom-weighted thermometer that would immediately right itself. (Ann Hawthorne)

Fish at play. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Humans aren’t the only animals that like to play. For instance, the rough and tumble play of dogs, or the sophisticated aerial acrobatics of ravens. Now, researchers have confirmed that even some fish play. University of Tennessee, Knoxville animal behaviorist Gordon Burghardt and his colleagues analyzed video footage of cichlid fish in a tank.

GORDON BURGHARDT (University of Tennessee, Knoxville):

These fish will attack this bottom weighted thermometer which is sort of like a bobble head – in other words, you push it down , and it pops back up, and you push it down and it pops back up – and this is a feature of a lot of toys that young children and dogs and other animals enjoy, toys that respond back.

HIRSHON:

He says studying play in less complex species like fish could help reveal the evolutionary origins of the behavior. The research appears in the journal Ethology. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.