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Four Studies that Prove Aquatic Animals Are Even Smarter Than We Thought

All misconceptions about fish intelligence haave been blown out of the water.

Regardless of intelligence, all beings should be able to live free from abuse, and cognitive ability shouldn’t factor into how someone is treated. That being said, learning about how animals think and problem solve can help us identify with them even more. Here are 4 times aquatic animals made waves in the scientific community: 

CUTTLEFISH CAN PLAN AHEAD: A group of cuttlefish, who are in the cephalopod family along with octopuses and squid, recently passed a cognitive test that’s made for human children. The test, often referred to as the “marshmallow test,” is given to show whether or not someone can learn, adapt, and plan for the future. The cuttlefish were placed in a tank with immediate access to a raw prawn but were given access to a more favorable food, a live grass shrimp, after a delay. If they ate the prawn, they weren’t given access to the grass shrimp. The cuttlefish in the study demonstrated the ability to delay gratification and wait for the better treat later, an ability comparable to what’s been seen in larger-brained vertebrates. 

OCTOPUSES ARE ESCAPE ARTISTS: Like all of us, octopuses want to live free from physical or emotional suffering. Octopuses have been known to spray water at experimenters in a laboratory, and have shorted out light circuits when they wanted darkness in captivity. An octopus named Inky made headlines in New Zealand when he escaped from his tank at an aquarium and made his way to a drainpipe that led to the sea.

FISH CAN USE TOOLS: The use of tools was once thought of as a cognitive ability that only humans possess, but now scientists have discovered that other animals such as chimpanzees, otters, octopuses, and fishes can use tools, too. According to Discover Magazine, the black spotted tuskfish slams clams into rocks until their shells break. In a similar approach, other fish species crush urchins against corals to break their spines and feed on their soft insides. 

CRABS HAVE GREAT MEMORIES: In 2019, scientists conducted a spatial learning study, which revealed that common shore crabs can navigate their way around a complex maze to find food, and can even remember the route weeks later. During a four-week period, scientists saw the crabs show a steady improvement in both the time taken to find the food at the end and the number of wrong turns taken. When returned to the maze two weeks later, they all reached the end of the maze in under eight minutes—a clear sign that they had remembered the route. New crabs introduced to the maze for the first time took far longer to reach the end, and some never made it to the end during the one-hour study period.

Aquatic animals are intelligent, self-aware, and most importantly, they feel pain just like any other animal. Please show compassion for these fascinating animals and leave them off your plate. 


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