Fish Who Pass The Self Aware Test?

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.

15 thoughts on “Fish Who Pass The Self Aware Test?

  1. Hello Shelldigger. I love this. Great timing. I had a comment from dolphinwrite who was making the claim that humans are special and the reason is the bible. I tired to explain the mirror test but did not do as grand a job as you did. I find the understanding we are gaining of how more developed other animals are to be fascinating. I think of elephants and how they react. I posted a year ago of a family of elephants who had a member trapped in a construction ditch. These were wild elephants. They stood by and watched as humans worked to free the baby. When freed the baby ran to the others, and while a couple check him out the other in the herd gave a visual and vocal salute of thanks to the humans, then they all turned and left. I have seen primates in studies demand equality for others in lab tests of food. Self sacrifice to make sure their fellows get an equal share is something we never thought monkeys would do. Hugs


    • Sigh, special pleading for special creation, for special people. Some people are just gonna ride the short bus Scottie 😉

      Elephants are a great example of more complex intellect in the animal kingdom.

      I have seen some examples of the primate equality behaviors as well. When you see that sort of thing, be it elephants, or apes, or dolphin, or whatever, it does give the thoughtful sort a moment of curiosity and wonder at what is really going on in the noggins of those critters. They certainly seem to show much more advanced social skills than they are given credit for.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Since I don’t wipe the smudge off my face, my wife does it for me. 😂 This type of altruism is also found in multiple species. I’m pretty convinced most animals are quite aware in different ways than we are. They may not possess the vanity that we do, but have feeling and awareness in ways we don’t quite understand. Just look at butterflies interacting. They look like they are whisping in the breezes, but are extremely aware of us and other butterflies. They ain’t stupid.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good point. I think most species are self aware to the point of recognizing for whatever reason, the desire to survive. Prey animals do their damndest to not be caught by the predator. But to be considered for some level of intellectual advancement over basic survival, the mirror test is a good start.

      …us guys are often too busy and caught up in our work to know about the smudge. 🙂 Hell there are times I will look down and have blood coming from somewhere and wonder where the heck did that come from? Only to remember it must have been the result of the slip/scrape/or rough edge I had encountered a few minutes earlier. We need more than mirrors to be aware lol.

      Liked by 2 people

      • The old notion of the “dumb animal” is slipping away with the popularity of GoPro and cell cameras. We’re seeing time after time that animals of many varieties surprise us with their intuition and intelligence.


        • I would counter with, the GoPro is a fine example of exhibiting animals behaving foolishly. 😉

          That whale vid has pissed me off this morning. Sea World has much in common with the Donald Trump administration. I haven’t been to any trained whale/dolphin shows since I was a kid, looks like that is going to be my last time.


          • They actually are phasing out the shows, but now China is building an even better whale park. They don’t even seem to care about human rights, let alone animal. There should be no whales in captivity.


            • I absolutely agree no whales should be in captivity or dolphins for that matter. Unless they start robbing banks or mugging little old ladies on the street, then I’d reconsider my position ;).

              The Chinese have a long history of human rights abuses, no surprise that they have no qualms extending that behavior to whales…

              Liked by 1 person

        • Sad … very sad. For too many, money talks much louder than the cries of the mother in this video.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I am sure that fish was trying to avoid being eaten by acting intelligent


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