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Scientists train goldfish to drive a fish-operated vehicle on land

A photoshopped image shows a goldfish dreaming of a sports car.

Enlarge (credit: Aurich Lawson | Getty Images)

Perhaps the favorite thing I wrote in all of 2019 was about a research study that taught rats to drive, an activity that the rats appeared to enjoy. Today, we have another tale of lab animals learning to drive, but this time the motorists in question weren’t mammals—they were goldfish, who learned how to drive a fish-operated vehicle in a terrestrial environment.

The very first question most people will ask at this point is “Why?” In the driving-rat study from 2019, the researchers were trying to study environmental stress, and driving is an activity that turned out to reduce stress levels in the rats. This study, conducted by Shachar Givon and colleagues at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and published in Behavioral Brain Research, aimed to discover something a little different.

Specifically, the idea was to see if the fishes’ navigation skills are universal and work in extremely unfamiliar environments, a concept known as domain transfer methodology. And you have to admit, driving a tank inside an enclosure in a research lab is a pretty unfamiliar environment for a goldfish.

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