The humble household goldfish has long been ostracised in emotional attachment circles by pet lovers who lament their alleged lack of memory and personality.
However, a recent Norwegian study has suggested that far from physical ignorance, fish might actually have feelings too–albeit in a rudimentary sense.
The Norwegian School of Veterinary Science’s Janicke Nordgreen, writing her doctoral dissertation, posited that the scaled may well be sensitive and are capable of feeling pain. Regrettably, this conclusion was reached because test cases in Nordgreen’s research were subjected to rigorous heat treatment.
IO9 covered Nordgreen’s project which included goldfish, along with rainbow trout and Atlantic salmon, as unwitting participants. Nordgreen discovered that noxious galvanic, or electric, stimulation caused increased activity amongst the salmon with responses growing in relation to the level of the charge.
Another experiment saw Nordgreen test the temperatures that goldfish could stand, with the accepted scientific ruling being that anything above 38 degrees Celsius is potentially deadly in such subjects. Unsurprisingly the goldfish exhibited ‘escape responses’ as the temperature exceeded this point, which Nordgreen argues is evidence that reaction to dangerous heat is a feature synonymous among vertebrates.
Nordgreen also undertook research into how Atlantic salmon processed morphine and how rainbow trout could be trained to follow certain types of stimuli. The research team hopes the findings of the study will provide food for thought to those who order live fish in restaurants; a custom that has been described by the report as “the equivalent of Ichthyological hell”.