Fish learning and cognition are usually approached by testing single individuals in various devices such as mazes that have serious drawbacks, especially in gregarious species, including the stress induced by the test procedure. This might impair the results and lead to misinterpretation about the learning abilities of the targeted species. In order to provide an alternative to the individual-based tests, we investigated for the first time the operant conditioning of four similar groups (50 individuals per tank) of sea bass. We used two computerized self-feeder devices per tank, each coupled with individual electronic identification and that were alternately activated during varying positive appetitive reinforcement period of time (7 to 1 day). Learning abilities were examined at both group and individual levels. At the group level, the operant conditioning was demonstrated as the triggering activity significantly decreased when the device was turned off and increased when it was turned on, whatever the reinforcement period duration. The individual level analysis revealed a more complex situation with fish showing different learning performances that can be best explained through the producer-scrounger game theory.
Learning & Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 3, 2017
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