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Brain lateralisation...so - are there right and left finned fish?


 
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Lateralisation of human brains makes it possible for each hemisphere to specialise in processing different kinds of information - language, mathematics, art, music and so on. But it's not a purely human feature. Recent discoveries have shown cerebral lateralisation in most vertebrates. This is significant as it allows us to look further into animal behaviour and their use of left and right brain hemispheres. Fishes are no exception and their brains have a high degree of specialisation based on lateralisation.

 
Lateralisation maze used to test for turning preferences in fishes.

Photo from Culum Brown

 
Experiments from the University of Padua have shown that fish have left and right biases, specifically in relation to their most favoured direction for turning. These biases are also detected in the wild, for example, turning preference was looked into in Panama, where there were duplicate fish populations of the same species both above and below a series of waterfalls. Below the falls, individual fishes all showed definite eye preferences (some left, some right) and associated prefered turning bias, while above the falls the fish showed no such preferences. Investigations showed that the below the falls population had a number of predators to contend with, none of which existed above the falls. The fish were using their preferred eye to concentrate on watching for predators, leaving the other hemisphere free to do other things.
Multitasking in fishes? Certainly a way to process more information more effectively and more efficiently - both great aids to survival.


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