Numerical abilities have been demonstrated in a variety of non-human vertebrates. However, underlying biological mechanisms have been difficult to study due to a paucity of experimental tools. Powerful genetic and neurobiological tools already exist for the zebrafish, but numerical abilities remain scarcely explored with this species. Here, we investigate the choice made by single experimental zebrafish between numerically different shoals of conspecifics presented concurrently on opposite sides of the experimental tank. We examined this choice using the AB strain and pet store zebrafish. We found zebrafish of both populations to generally prefer the numerically larger shoal to the smaller one. This preference was significant for contrasted ratios above or equalling 2:1 (i.e. 4 vs. 0, 4 vs. 1, 8 vs. 2, 6 vs. 2 and 6 vs. 3). Interestingly, zebrafish showed no significant preference when each of the two contrasted shoals had at least 4 members, e.g. in a contrast 8 versus 4. These results confirm that zebrafish possess the ability to distinguish larger numbers of items from smaller number of items, in a shoaling context, with a potential limit above 4. Our findings confirm the utility of the zebrafish for the exploration of both the behavioural and the biological mechanisms underlying numerical abilities in vertebrates.
Animal Cognition – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 14, 2017
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