© 2015 Newport et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. While several phylogenetically diverse species have proved capable of learning abstract concepts, previous attempts to teach fish have been unsuccessful. In this report, the ability of archerfish (Toxotes chatareus) to learn the concepts of sameness and difference using a simultaneous two-item discrimination task was tested. Six archerfish were trained to either select a pair of same or different stimuli which were presented simultaneously. Training consisted of a 2-phase approach. Training phase 1: the symbols in the same and different pair did not change, thereby allowing the fish to solve the test through direct association. The fish were trained consecutively with four different sets of stimuli to familiarize them with the general procedure before moving on to the next training phase. Training phase 2: six different symbols were used to form the same or different pairs. After acquisition, same/different concept learning was tested by presenting fish with six novel stimuli (transfer test). Five fish successfully completed the first training phase. Only one individual passed the second training phase, however, transfer performance was consistent with chance. This individual was given further training using 60 training exemplars but the individual was unable to reach the training criterion. We hypothesize that archerfish are able to solve a limited version of the same/different test by learning the response to each possible stimulus configuration or by developing a series of relatively simple choice contingencies.We conclude that the simultaneous two-item discrimination task we describe cannot be successfully used to test the concepts of same and different in archerfish. In addition, despite considerable effort training archerfish using several tests and training methods, there is still no evidence that fish can learn an abstract concept-based test.
Newport, C., Wallis, G., & Siebeck, U. E. (2015). Same/different abstract concept learning by archerfish (Toxotes chatareus). PLoS ONE, 10(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0143401