I finally had some time to browse one of my old haunts, Science Daily, and this story caught my eye. It appears that a species of a cleaner fish, and I quote: “cleaner wrasse fish (Labroides dimidiatus), responds to its reflection and attempts to remove marks on its body during the mirror test — a method considered the gold standard for determining self-awareness in animals.”
Which for anyone who might be aware of the self aware test, or MSR (Mirror Self Recognition,) you may find this intriguing.
For those not familiar with the self aware test referred to, basically you use a mirror that the subject can see themselves with and let them get accustomed to it being there. Then you put a mark on the subject. If they respond with curiosity, or attempt to remove the mark in some manner, or show some signs of stress concerning the mark, or a combination of these behaviors, this would count as a positive result.
Now as with any scientific study, there are always counterpoints to be made, and they had a good writeup here outlining the potential issues with this certain test. As far as I can tell, and no one will mistake me for the smartypants who would know better, I’d call the outcome of this test at the very least, very interesting.
I have read about dolphins who responded to the self aware test in a fairly convincing manner. But they are known to be highly intelligent. The cleaner wrasse fish I’m farily certain isn’t as brainy as the bottlenose dolphin, but then again who knows? The biggest issues from that last link amounts pretty much to “we need to tweak the test for better results, and eliminate any false positives by subjects conditioned to these tests.” But it is a solid read, if you are into that sort of thing 🙂
Edit: I just saw a writeup at this link that adds another perspective to the mix.